Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Harder the Problem, the Sweeter the Solution

Or something like that. A pair of students in my 7th grade robotics class spent the last one-and-a-half classes stuck on a really frustrating problem. While the rest of the class went to town making brilliant windmills exploring the physics of centrifugal force (it that's what it's called, I took Physics for Poets in college), and pushing the limits of early Logo program writing I was knocking my head against the wall helping this team get their RCX to successfully complete the beep test. The tower would send the signal, the RCX display would show that it had received it, but then the program would say the interface is not connected, meaning the tower hadn't received the proper confirmation signal from the RCX. I tried swapping RCX's, towers, computers, user accounts, all to no avail. Finally in the middle of class today I remembered hearing two years ago that fluorescent light can interfere with the infrared signal transmission. So on a hunch I told them to put the RCX and the tower on the floor under the table and it worked! Never has victory tasted so sweet. That problem was really getting under my skin. I told them several times that their frustration was a great sacrifice to the learning of the community because it allowed us to learn about a really tough problem.

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