‘Spare Parts’ Debuts in Theaters Nationwide on January 16 Featuring Robots Built by FIRST Teams.
Watch the Spare Parts movie trailer on Youtube here.
FIRST Robotics is not App Inventor, but FIRST is a high visibility showcase of youth STEM programs. Since 2008, I have been a volunteer engineering mentor with high school FIRST Robotics teams. The 2015 FIRST robotics competition season is underway now.
To learn more about FIRST Robotics in your area, or to start a team, visit USFIRST.ORG.
The team where I volunteer (Shockwave Team #4488!!!!!) has implemented several Android apps using MIT App Inventor. One of their apps, a robotic-themed game based on the 2015 competition, is available in the Google Play store as a free download. Other apps are used by the team during competition to collect data on other teams, which is then analyzed in an Excel spreadsheet (written using Visual Basic for Applications code) to develop optimal competitive game strategies.
(Sorry for no new App Inventor code examples this week – had an ear infection for a few days that caused dizziness. Everything is okay now!)
Blockly is the block code editor used in App Inventor. Blockly provides a way to write programs by arranging blocks of code, rather than writing out traditional “source code” text programs.
This approach is helpful for new programmers who can focus on the programming – and not the details of the structure of the programming language (of which there are many in programming languages like Java, C/C++, and C#).
The app was created by student members of the Glencoe High School FIRST Robotics Team #4488 “Shockwave” and was developed using MIT App Inventor. The Android game is inspired by the 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition game called “Recycle Rush”. In the game, robots must stack a variety of container “totes” and a trash can on top and relocate the containers to a recycle zone on the playing field. Students design, build and test their robots – weighing up to about 120 pounds or 55 kilograms – these are large, complex pieces of mechanics, controlled by an advanced system controller, with control software also written by the student team. To learn more about FIRST Robotics, visit the web site at http://usfirst.org
I am one of many volunteer engineering mentors to the Shockwave Team. This year, I was mentor for the applications software team, that has developed a number of Android apps (the game is the only one publicly available), an Excel spreadsheet (written in VBA) to analyze data and develop optimal strategies, plus another app written in Python to process text comments about other robotics teams.
The team’s Android apps are written using MIT App Inventor.
Last year, I presented a short tutorial on displaying web pages from inside your App Inventor apps. Now, here is a some what improved version that prompts for a web address URL, checks to see if http:// has been entered, and if not, prepends http:// to the front of the address. Then the web page is displayed.
The Designer View
There is not much to the user interface – a text box to enter the web URL and a button to display the web page. The page then appears below the button, and the content may be scrolled on the screen.
To create this user interface, drag a horizontal layout onto the screen and then add a label for the “Web page URL” prompt, followed by a text box for the data entry. Then add the Display web page button.
From the User Interface section of the Palette, at the left of the Designer screen, drag and drop a WebViewer component on to the design area.
The WebViewer is not a full Internet browser – it is a component that displays the specified web page only. The WebViewer does not support standard browser features, such as saving web page content nor does it provide a history of the web pages visited.
Part 1 of this tutorial introduced Bluetooth communications and implemented a simple method of sending text data back and forth between two Android devices over the Bluetooth wireless link. If you are not familiar with using App Inventor’s Bluetooth component, start with Part 1.
In Part 2, a data packet concept is introduced to guide the communications between devices, and is used to send a combination of text and numeric data. This section introduces the concept of binary numbers so that you can understand why we would handle text and numbers in different ways.
This tutorial modifies the user interface of both the client and server programs introduced in Part 1. Then, blocks code is added to send text and numeric data. Numeric data is sent as binary data using special methods of the Bluetooth components.