Coronavirus Update

THURSDAY APRIL 16TH 2020

Hello families,

We want to thank you so much for your patience with us over the past several weeks. It takes some time to recreate our tried and true, “in person” experience into an online experience. Especially one that we would be proud of, and you know will have the quality and integrity that you have come to know as E-Bots.

You should see our facility right now! John has been building robots and Stephanie has been testing online software, but we finally think we have it figured out, we have just a few last minute tests to run and then we will be announcing our new and exciting “LIVE at home E-Bots Courses”. 

We hope you are as thrilled as we are that you may be our first ever students taking robotics into your homes! And we mean literally. We will be making available to each student their own robot and table which we will supply to facilitate the classes (more on this later). 

The plan, starting May 4th is to run a 4 week class, (Levels 2 – 4), that meet twice a week for a 2 hour class each meeting. 

Unlike our in class lessons that have a maximum of 10 students, we will be limiting the online classes to 5 students. We’re delighted by the prospect of the smaller class on our teaching.

At this time we are going to roll out our first session for the month of May. We are preparing for a secondary session in June however, we are in uncertain times, and so we will take it one step at a time.  

Level 1 students have presented more consideration for us. We want to make sure that all the best parts of our Level 1 transition to online, and will captivate your student, as:

  • Students in level 1 often have never been introduced to a robot before
  • They need to be shown and taught the handling, connecting and teaching of sensors
  • The class set up is often much more tactile than later levels, which are experiment based and testing oriented
  • Students are new and have never been introduced to our teaching style

For all of the above reasons, we want to have a little more time for our Level 1 curriculum building. This means that we will not be able to offer our Level 1 in the May classes and anticipate offering Level 1 in June.

For anyone that has paid for Level 1 and would prefer a refund, please contact us to do so. 

We have had to prioritize the classes where students are more familiar to our learning and would be able to acclimate easier to the new structure, and therefore are offering levels 2-4 only at this time.  The WeeBots classes are not software applicable in an online format for the younger students at this time and the FLL prep students may be transferrable, but more time is needed to develop a class. We will be working on this during the month of May. 

A schedule will be posted this week, with registration a couple of days later, to give people an opportunity to view it. 

For those that have registered and paid for Spring, you may sign up and have your fee’s transferred to the new online classes or you may email us now at info@ebots.ca and request a refund. 

If we still have your attention and you are interested in our Spring online programs and want to know more details, the following should help you understand what we are proposing. You may direct any questions to info@ebots.ca . 

Computer Requirements

There have been many concerns and issues regarding us putting our program online, unfortunately our biggest hurdle has been with the LEGO platform itself.

In November LEGO rolled out a new update to their MINDSTORMS programming, it’s still based on a graphical language but a little more akin to scratch/python etc. We are always excited (and daunted) by changes to software languages as it offers students more intuitive learning however, the rollout of this new software is currently limited to Mac users only.

PC’s cannot get this new software and Mac users can’t get the current software. 

We’re in a bit of a predicament. These two MINDSTORMS platforms are fundamentally different and teaching students with different versions isn’t possible.

This has really been the biggest concern we’ve run into and has taken weeks of testing, questioning and debating to decide how we are going to handle it.

Eventually all our computers will be forced into this new language and for that reason we have decided that at this time we will continue to teach on the current EV3 MINDSTORMS software and will convert to the new software when it becomes universally available.

For that reason we cannot offer online classes to students that are currently using Mac computers, due to the version of EV3 Software available to them.

But don’t despair, there are some work arounds to allow Mac families to use the current software. 

We ask that you don’t go this route unless you are a proficient or comfortable computer user, as our help will be limited. We won’t be able to troubleshoot issues you may have regarding the work arounds, which is why we ask that you make sure you’re comfortable with that process before registering.

Mac users can utilize a Windows emulator to run the current EV3 software, an example would be the software Parallels. Alternatively you can run Windows installed alongside your OS through Mac bootcamp. 

If you plan on running an emulator the computer has to run the entirety of Windows so you must make sure that your laptop/computer can handle the emulator & the video conferencing application at the same time, before you register for classes.

More…

  • We ask that your Windows operating systems will have installed the newest version of the EV3 Software which is free and available online. 
  • Students will be required to have video & microphone capability as well, whether at desktop or laptop is not of concern, however they will need space for our robot table (more info to come).
  • We will also be using Zoom as our video conferencing software. We have looked into many, options but concerns over how our screen sharing, whiteboard and videos will work have led us to this software. You will not be required to purchase Zoom but we have and so our meetings will be security protected and hosted differently.
  • To provide students with a similar experience as our in class lessons, we will require the ability to remote desktop the student. It’s vitally important that we be able to see their work, and/or take control of their computer to help with their coding. The access to the computer would, of course be limited to only class times, with your specific teacher (either John or Steph).

If you are not comfortable with this situation we completely understand, but we will not be accepting registrations without this being signed off.

We have been testing and retesting all our software and in and effort to get everyone aligned prior to the first day, we will offer a pre-class meeting the week prior to the start of the session. This will offer us the opportunity to deal with the kinks of online learning and get all computers ready, deal with technical issues and test that everyone can get online comfortably so we have no first day jitters for the students. We anticipate this pre-class meeting being approx. an hour (hopefully less). 

Robot and learning table

We will be providing each student with;

  • Pre-built EV3 Robot
  • EV3 Charger
  • 2ft x 4ft Robot Table top (no legs)
  • 6ft Computer/EV3 Cable 

To some, LEGO may be considered toys, however the MINDSTORMS EV3 robot platform is over $500 brand new. Loaning out 25 Robots is the financial backbone of our facility and so a deposit of $400 will be required for the EV3 brick, which will be cancelled upon return of a happy Robot.  

We know a fair amount of you have EV3s at home, and we’re so pleased that you’ve taken the learning home. However, for these classes we are going to ask you to use the EV3s from E-Bots. You will not be able to use your own EV3 Robot. We have had to redesign the wheel and create Robots that would function for a small table space and all the levels offered. We haven’t the time to do up build instructions and some families will not have the same LEGO pieces, or sensors that we do. To offer an “even” learning/work environment to everyone, this is the route we’ve gone, for the time being. 

The Robot table that we will provide you will need to be situated close to the computer that is being used. We ask that the table not be placed on the floor as it will be made partially of wood & Styrofoam and we need to maintain the integrity of it’s build. Kitchen tables, dinning room tables, a card table for underneath would all be reasonable places to put it. As well as a quiet space away from siblings would be beneficial, or at very least a less busy area of the house.

Regarding COVID-19 concerns;

Our facility has been closed to the public since Saturday March 14th. The only people in the facility have been John, Pam & Stephanie who have been in self isolation since Saturday March 14th. All handling of LEGO pieces (EV3s, cables etc) have been done so, while maintaining all COVID-19 requirements and lots of hand washing!

COVID-19 can live on plastics for somewhere between 2-3 days. All materials will be re-sanitized prior to drop off and we anticipate that everyone will want to sanitize once they’ve received their Robot. Please be aware that we will be providing proper care instructions for the Robots specifically to do with sanitizing as moisture, bleach, lysol etc can have harmful effects on the Robot and so we have to be diligent so you can return happy Robots. 

If you are uncomfortable with bringing one of our EV3s into your home, we completely understand. 

Registrations

If you have made it this far (through the longest letter of all time), congratulations, you are “this” much closer to starting your experience with E-Bots online learning. 

We are going to roll out registration as soon as possible, hoping to have classes up this week. Priority will be given to those who have signed up for our original Spring schedule and currently have funds being held.

We ask that families with two children in the same level please register them for different time slots. We want each child to be given the attention they deserve, to be taught to their strengths. 

Classes will remain at $295+HST per student even though there are 8 classes instead of our usual 10. Our reasoning for this;

  • There is no first build class as students will receive their robots pre-built allowing us to jump right into our projects
  • Our Class size is now 50% less than in a normal in class situation which means theoretically we will be moving through concepts a little faster
  • The added bonus is you will have an EV3 at home so we have the ability to challenge them with work between classes 

So, again, when does this happen? 

Notification of a schedule release will be sent, as soon as possible and everyone will have the normal 2-3 days before registration goes live. 

We are excited to bring you this new LIVE at home class set up and hope it will be a successful educational experience for all involved. 

We are excited to begin!

John, Pam & Stephanie