08 Design: Robotics

Use Lego EV3 robotics and the Open Roberta programming environment to solve the Mars Rover challenge obstacle course


08 Design Robotics Pic 02
Statement of inquiry:
Robotic systems are an invention, undergoing continual innovation, that can perform an almost unlimited variety of functions.

Key concept:

Related concepts:
Function, innovation

Global context:
Scientific & technical innovation (Modernisation, industrialisation and engineering)

Why learn programming?

The need for an understanding of how computers function to be a highly valuable member of today’s society is only going to further increase! We have made our lives so dependant on computers, you owe it to yourself to know what’s going on - where the risks are. Programming develops great thinking skills that will be invaluable whether you choose to code or not… GROW YOUR BRAIN! Also... It’s just great nerdy fun!!!


Congratulations Mission Commander, you have received a letter from Elon Musk of SpaceX!

The mars rover scenario obstacle course contains the following elements:

Mars Rover Challenge Table Labelled

  • Objective A: Starting on the black square, follow the red/blue track successfully navigating the turns until you reach the black marker for B.
  • Objective B: You will have to pre-measure the distances and angles involved in this section of track and program your rover to navigate it successfully so that it avoids the obstacles that will also be placed along the way.
  • Objective C: Resume the red/blue track but this time you will need to detect obstacles that will be placed on the track to block it. On detection, veer off the track, drive around the obstacle, and then successfully return to the track.
  • Objective D: Find the object that will be placed in the middle of the white course atea. Drive up to it and stop. That completes objective D.
  • Objective E: Pick up/grip/push/pull the object and return it to marker A.

Watch the video to see what solving the scenario looks like in reality:

Criterion A: Investigation

Task A1: Explain the problem

Study the given scenario for the Mars mission. Do some brief research considering the following:

  • What factors might contribute to the environment on Mars being considered hazardous?
  • Why might robots be an ideal solution to the problem presented?

Don't just use wikipedia - find information from more than one source. Make note of the web addresses of your sources.

Complete section A1 of your Design Journal. Be sure to write complete paragraphs for each question and include your reference website addresses.

Task A2 part 1: Identify your research

Brain storm a set of questions you need answers to before you will be able to complete the Mars mission. For instance you will need to learn about how to build objects with lego, how to attach motors, what sensors are available, how to wire it together. You will also need to learn how to program, how can a program work with the sensors, how can a program control motors, how can a program make decisions. Finally you'll also have to learn things such as how to get the program onto the actual lego and make it run!

We'll do a brain storm in class based on some of the above.

Based on the brain storm, select the 10 most important questions you think need to be answered in order to complete the Mars mission. You may use some of your own questions if you think they are better than the ones we came up with in class.

Complete the first table in section A2 of your Design Journal.

Tutorials and challenges

The following is a series of tutorials and challenges for you to complete with your mission partner. They are intended to teach you the core skills required to be able to successfully complete the mission.


  • Lost pieces must be accounted for!
    • I keep records of who is assigned each kit.
    • Every kit will be checked for missing parts at the end of the unit.
  • Never throw Lego (or you might find yourself doing paper & pen work instead)
  • When we are working with the Lego, the last 5 minutes is dedicated to pack-up. Do not keep working once I give the pack-up warning.
  • No one leaves a Lego lesson until:
    • There is no Lego on floor, tables, or otherwise out of a kit!
    • All kits are properly packed, lids attached, and neatly stacked.


08 Robotics Basic Kit

Using the printed manuals, follow the instructions from page 1 through 46. A digital copy of the assembly instructions is also available.

Do not start adding your own elements to the robot at this time, just stick to the base model. You will change your robot design later.


Watch the first tutorial video to learn how to use the Open Roberta software and create your first program.


You are now ready to experiment and attempt the level 1 challenges. No sensors are required at this stage, and no extra lego
additions to the robot.

Do experiment with different blocks to see how they behave, such as the ones shown on this page.

Complete at least two level 1 challenges. Demonstrate them to the teacher for signature when ready.

  • Challenge 1A: Go forward exactly 1 meter, wait for 3 seconds, reverse, stop at starting original point.
  • Challenge 1B: Go in a perfect square (sharp turn on the corners)
  • Challenge 1C: Go in a perfect circle (diameter at least 50cm), stopping and starting at the same point.


Watch these videos and follow along replicating the functionality with your own EV3.


You are now ready to attempt the level 2 challenges. Each of these only requires one sensor unless otherwise specified.
Complete at least 2 of the level 2 challenges, but it is highly recommended you do at least one for each sensor. Demonstrate
them to the teacher for signature when ready.

  • Challenge 2A: Press touch sensor to start moving, press same touch sensor again to stop moving
  • Challenge 2B: Drive forward and change direction based on what the color sensor sees. Color blue causes a left turn,
    color yellow causes a right turn, color red causes stop.
  • Challenge 2C: If you have two colour sensors: Drive following a black line, turning as it turns. If you have one colour sensor, drive following a two coloured line.
  • Challenge 2D: Drive forward until ultrasonic sensor detects an object in front, stop 5cm from the object, and sound an
  • Challenge 2E: Drive forward in a straight line until ultrasonic sensor detects an object in front, drive around the object
    (the program can make assumptions about the object size rather than having to detect it all the way around), and then
    continue driving in the original direction as if nothing was there.


To solve the challenges in level 3, you will have to do some of your own thinking and research. These are the harder challenges
and are designed to see which students are capable of the more demanding tasks. Some students will struggle to complete
these in time – remember it's ok to make mistakes – it's not ok to give up without trying!

Research, experiment, and attempt one of these challenges:

  • Challenge 3A: Build a claw/gripper. Drive until ultrasonic or touch sensor detects an object in range, stop, and
    grip/pickup the object.
  • Challenge 3B: Build a forklift style lifting arm. Drive until ultrasonic or touch sensor detects an object in range, stop,
    and lift the object.
  • Challenge 3C: Build a drop arm that will fall around an object like a net. Drive until ultrasonic or touch sensor detects an
    object in front. Drop the arm to catch the object, and drive off with it.

Note: You can custom make your own "object" from spare lego. You may want to adjust it's "shape" to suit the challenge you
are undertaking. For instance, an object that is thin on the base, but wider on top might help a forklift arm to slide underneath
it, but would probably not suit a claw.

Criterion A: Investigation (continued)

ATL lesson: Citation and references

One of our ATL's for this course is Create references and citations and construct a bibliography.

  • Slides: Citing in Design
  • In brief, the year 8 expectations at ISL are to include the Author, Title and Source in your referencing.

Practice exercise: Find the answer to the following questions and include your referencing information for where the answer came from (author, title and source).

  • Who credited with inventing the first bomb disposal robot?
  • What was the name of the first Mars rover successfully landed by the USA, and on what date did it land on Mars?
  • What team won the DARPA Robotics challenge grand final in 2015?

(don't cite/reference wikipedia)

Task A2: part 2: Document your research learning

Now that you have completed the tutorials and challenges, summarise what you have learnt. Are you able to answer all the questions you identied in part 1?

Complete the second table in section A2 of your Design Journal. You may tweak the contents of the first table as well at this time if you wish.

Task A3: Analyse existing products


Classtime will not be allocated to this task. The due date will be agreed upon in class and posted on Google Classroom. This task is to be completed individually rather than in your teams.

Look at some existing real-world robots and study them to gain an understanding as to the true capabilities of modern robotics.

Some interesting robots that you could look at include (try to research into at least one that isn't on this list):

Complete section A3 of your Design Journal.

Remember to include Author, Title and Source in your referencing.

Task A4: Design brief

Complete section A4 of your Design Journal.

Question 2 (what you learnt from task A3) should contain a paragraph for each team members A3. The other questions should be completed as a team.

Once you have completed section A4, scroll to the bottom of this page and open the MYP 3 Design criteria feedback document. Use the check list for Criterion A to check your own work and ensure it is as thorough as you can make it.

Criterion B: Develop ideas

Task B1: Design specification

It is now time to start thinking about how you and your team will design a robot to complete your Mars mission!

The design specification is where you generate a list of project success criteria that you and your partner will use to judge how successful you have been with the project. Each success criterion should be as specific and measurable as possible. Remember, you will use your success criteria when you complete your project evaluation and reflection, so the more measurable you can make them the better.

To assist you in brainstorming your success criteria, you should use the following categories as headings, and then create criteria for each category.

  • Functionality: What will your program do? How will it behave? Under what conditions?
  • Aesthetics: What will it look like? Sound like? Will there be any movement/animation/colour?
  • Technology: What will the client require to run it?
  • Feasibility: What time constraints, resource constraints, knowledge constraints do you face?

Complete section B1 of your Design Journal. Ideally refer to what you learnt through the challenges when explaining your reasoning for each criterion.

Task B2: Design ideas

Now is the chance to redesign your robot. You may wish to build a robot based on the existing template we have been using so far, or you may wish to create an entirely new looking robot – the choice is yours. What will give you the best chance of completing the challenge?

You should create at least 2, ideally 3, quality drawn annotated diagrams of possible robot designs.

Your drawings should include annotations that:

  • Identify the location of your sensors and motors
  • Identify any other key features of the physical design (tires vs tractor tracks, claws vs forklift arms etc)
  • If you don't use a ruler to make your diagrams neat and of a high standard, then don't bother submitting it.
  • You may use the LEGO DESIGNER software to create the design diagrams on the computer if you wish (though this will likely take more time than hand drawings)
  • Scan and insert your diagrams into section B2 of your Design Journal.

The following prototype templates are available for you to print so you simply need to add your own changes and annotations.

08 Design Robotics Prototype Thumbnail

Task B3: Design selection

Compare each of your design diagrams from task B2 against the success criteria you created in B1 to determine which design (or mix of designs) best satisfies your requirements and why.

Complete section B3 of your Design Journal.

Task B4: Final design in detail

For B4, if you are re-using a design diagram from B2 completely unmodified, you may re-insert the same diagram into the diagram section of B4. If you have decided you need to make some changes after doing the comparisons from B3, you will need to create a new diagram for this section.

Take time to carefully complete the written section explaining how your robot will function. Your aim is to explain how the logic of your Open Roberta program(s) will work. This should be as detailed as possible as it is where the focus of the marking for B4 will come from.

Complete section B4 of your Design Journal.

Check your work for Criterion B against the marking feedback template at the bottom of the page.

Criterion C: Create the solution

ATL lesson: Problem solving computer programming

This lesson will help address two different ATL's:

  • Demonstrate persistence and perseverance; and
  • Apply knowledge and skills in unfamiliar situations

Solving problems with computer programs is an aquired skill that takes time. At times it can feel quite frustrating and it feels like it would be easiest to just give up and have someone else solve it for you, but if you persist and successfully solve it yourself it is an incredibly rewarding feeling. The trick is to take the unknown of the problem you are trying to solve and turn it into smaller, simpler problems that you are more familiar with. There are some useful strategies to help with this, that we will look at in this lesson.

Task C1: Planning

Your team have been allocated a set number of lessons to complete Criterion C. Four weeks of class class time is about 12 hours of working time per team member! That is quite a lot of working time. It is up to you to ensure you don’t waste it, as poor use of your time will create a lot of homework and stress.

In order to ensure your time is well used, the very first task is to create a time plan that you and your partner(s) will commit to sticking to.

Complete your time plan by completing the table in section C3 of your Design Journal.

Task C2 & C3: Demonstrate technical skill & create your solution

Time to make your robot and program it to complete the Mars mission!


  • Aim to stick to the schedule you created for yourself in C1
  • Start by build the robot according to the physical design you created in B4. You may make alter this design if you realise there changes needed along the way.
  • Build a program in Open Roberta based on what you discussed in B4. Again, you may (will) make plenty of changes to this as you test it.
  • As you complete each stage, you should create a video of your robot performing the task. These will need to be submitted to Google Classroom as prove of your robots capabilties.
  • You can work on your robot during school lunch breaks if you wish provided you book it with the teacher ahead of time. You can not take the robots home.

Assessment will be completed in four parts:

  • You will be allocated a lesson for Demonstration Day! This is the day you will demonstrate to the teacher how successfully your final robot is able to complete the mission.
  • Upload the videos you recorded demonstrating your robot to Google Classroom.
  • Upload your final Open Roberta program to Google Classroom.
  • There will be a short Open Roberta in-class test! The test will consist of being given a simple "scenario" and you will need to create a program for an EV3 robot that would solve the challenge scenario.

Task C4: Justify changes

Complete section C4 of your Design Journal, discussing the changes you made to what you originally wrote for B4 and C1 as you completed the Mars mission.

Criterion D: Evaluation

You should briefly reflect upon everything you have learnt and experienced as you completed this robotics unit. How successful were you?

Task D1: Design tests

Complete the questions in section D1 of your Design Journal.

Task D2: Conduct tests

Complete the questions in section D2 of your Design Journal.

Task D3: Explain future improvements

Complete the questions in section D3 of your Design Journal.

Task D4: Explain the impact

Complete the questions in section D4 of your Design Journal.


You will be given instructions regarding disassembly of your robot. You will be required to check that you have not misplaced any parts!

Assessment documents