BTEC Unit 6 – mind the gap

A place to discuss any problems, issues or questions surrounding the E-blocks BTEC Unit 6 course.

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Q Branch
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BTEC Unit 6 – mind the gap

Postby Q Branch » Sat Feb 17, 2018 10:12 pm

From my point of view, spending most of my working career in industry and a few years teaching (BTEC L3 and L4 Electronics and Microprocessors/Microcontrollers), Pearson are moving in the right direction with the new BTEC Unit 6. The problem is in the gap between the Unit 6 specification and the Pearson books, sample assessments and sample marked learner work. The books are light on content compared with the specification and sample assessments.

I have been using the Matrix “Introduction to microcontroller programming” as the basis of this year’s teaching. It’s really good, assuming you grew up in the early 1980’s with a BBC micro and read “Acorn User” magazine (guilty on both counts). With this in mind, I am putting together a series of guides with sample solutions and programming techniques to fill in the blanks between the Unit 6 specification and the course material.

Here’s a sample solution for the sheep counting exercise before I covered the “switch statement” and how to use it. As about half of development time is spent debugging programs, I gave the students a working solution for most scenarios (except the case of an indecisive sheep that eventually crosses to the other paddock). The plan was to get the students to step through the program, find the flaw and come up with their own solution.

Also missing from this guide are the parts where I scribble stuff on the whiteboard and explain the subtle detail.
Hopefully, some people will find it useful – all comments, questions and suggestions welcome.
Attachments
Exercise_7_sheep_alternate_mapping_WITH_SWITCH.fcfx
Flowcode 7 solution with the added "stretch & challenge" activity
(22.08 KiB) Downloaded 74 times
Exercise_7_sheep.fcfx
Flowcode 7 solution to the problem as originally set
(19.82 KiB) Downloaded 62 times
Counting_sheep_with_Flowcode_7.pdf
How to approach the problem
(3.41 MiB) Downloaded 90 times
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Re: BTEC Unit 6 – mind the gap

Postby medelec35 » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:05 am

Welcome to the forums Q Branch
Thank you for an informative and great first post.
for your interest, I also did a version of the sheep counting program here

Martin
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Re: BTEC Unit 6 – mind the gap

Postby Q Branch » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:00 pm

Thanks for your message Martin.
One of the things I like about engineering is that there's lots of possible solutions to any problem.
Mine is by no means the most efficient, but the objective was to get a group of students with no programming experience to solve a problem in a logical way, using what they have learned using Flowcode 7 since Christmas (Input, Output, Loop, Calculation and if).

Last year's group, before I had Flowcode and eBlocks, used the Arduino UNO with the Arduino IDE. Great if you like spending every session hunting missing semicolons, round brackets that should be curly brackets and various syntax errors disguised as plausible code.

My original plan was to do an end to end run through the Unit 6 sample assessment material (the egg timer) from a student's point of view under exam conditions and timings over the Christmas break. Unfortunately too many funerals and not enough weddings saw that plan go out the window.

The only solution I've seen is the BTEC sample marked learner's work that uses delay everywhere and 5 time options for the egg timer (2,3,4,5 or 6 minutes). The unit specification, "Essential Content" contains "interrupts", so why not use a timer interrupt in the solution and is it really acceptable to only have whole minute time options for your egg ?

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Re: BTEC Unit 6 – mind the gap

Postby The G » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:46 pm

Q Branch wrote:Pearson are moving in the right direction with the new BTEC Unit 6. The problem is in the gap between the Unit 6 specification and the Pearson books, sample assessments and sample marked learner work. The books are light on content compared with the specification and sample assessments.


I totally agree with what you are saying here...
My background is different, with almost zero programming experience previously and a bias towards Mechanical Engineering.

Making Microcontrollers compulsory on the course is an excellent decision and opportunity, but it is woefully under-resourced and there was definitely not enough consultation made with centres about the implications. We have only ever delivered the general Engineering qualification, without both the equipment or specialist staff on hand to introduce this unit.

I volunteered to "learn as I teach" with the optimism that the Course content and text book / eblocks / Flowcode / Matrix Introduction guide would be sufficient for a reasonably capable Engineering teacher to manage. This is proving to be a LOT more challenging than expected. The biggest problem with such a big subject is "You don't know what (or how much) you don't know", so every new problem is like looking for a torch in the dark.

The guided learning hours are 120. That is really stretching learners to get from potentially no knowledge or experience in anything like this, to a point where a full solution is independently achieved for a problem posed within 5 days in exam conditions. In addition to this, most centres don't have funding to fully deliver all GLH in directed lessons, so instead have to rely on out-of-class resources to help the learners top up.

Anyway, perhaps a good next topic will be "Suggestions to improve the content/delivery of Unit 6"... as some of the ideas will be within the capability of Matrix as either linked or separate resources when purchasing Flowcode / eBlocks. It is a massive opportunity really to enhance the outcomes of what Unit 6 should be getting the learners to achieve...
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