The Hunt for Death Camas

Nodding Onion / Galileo Educational NetworkThe First Nations people of the foothills of Alberta enjoyed Nodding Onions (​allium cernuum), or Saokiipisatsiinikimm (Prairie Funny Vine)1 in the Kainai language. Nodding Onions have a mild onion or garlic smell and were used as a staple and seasoning.

There is a similar plant called Death Camas or Black Snakeroot (Zigadenus venenosus), also a springtime plant which is, "one of the most toxic springtime plants." 2

The students are making a robot that will travel through the forest, across the river and search the grassland to remove Death Camas so the delicious Nodding Onion can be harvested safely.

This is an excellent project to be modified to meet individual needs. The teacher is free to add complexity by requiring different shaped areas to be searched, require different search loops or extending and using sensors for navigation. Some students may need a simpler challenge so their robot may be "stored" closer to the field or require that only the first plant be found.

The "t" in the lower left of the picture below is a reference point for the robot to start at the same place and in the same orientation every time. The wheels line up on the horizontal line and the light sensor and the caster wheel line up on the vertical line. Notice that the pathway close to the start has smaller clearances for the robot to pass through but the clearance widens further along. The Lego robots are not precision instruments particularly when using dead reckoning; I tell the students, "It's Lego, not titanium," to explain how the robot might start in exactly the same place but end at different locations. Other hints are to add a Wait block for 3 seconds to allow the student to straighten the robot.

Students at Elbow Park School worked on this project. To see more information, visit their Robotics project webpage.


1. from viewed January 12, 2014

2. from viewed Jan 15, 2012