Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Transformative Power of Robotics (item of interest to edcuators)

From: N Y Times 'Education' Section
"In the South Bronx, Robotics and Rebirth"
"At the end of a distinctly pugilistic day of sixth grade, Abdoulie Lemon was escorted by a dean to the industrial-arts classroom that doubled as the detention pen. No sooner had he restlessly settled into his chair than he caught sight of a dozen students gathered in rapt attention around a table at the other end of the room.
Not being the obedient sort at this point in his scholastic career, Abdoulie left behind the dean and the chair to check out the hubbub, he recalled recently. He saw on the tabletop a sort of motorized cart made mostly of Lego pieces.
“I want to play,” he said, shifting from tough guy to eager child with no intermediate step.
“It’s not a toy,” one of the students at the table answered. “It’s a robot.”
The dean begrudgingly gave Abdoulie a five-minute parole to watch the robot scoot to and fro across the tabletop. And in those five minutes, Abdoulie’s life changed.
What he was seeing, he soon learned, was a practice session for the robotics team at Herman Ridder Junior High School in the Bronx. There was practice every afternoon, and more practice or a competition on most Saturdays.
By now, two years later, Abdoulie is a veteran of the team. Last year, he traveled with the Ridder Kids, as their matching T-shirts proclaim them, to a national Lego robotics championship in Atlanta. At the end of this April, the squad plans to go to Japan to participate in an exhibition.
In the process, Abdoulie has solved the mystery of himself: How could a boy smart enough to disassemble and reassemble the family television be messing up so badly in school? The answer: Nobody at school had noticed that talent until the Ridder Kids encouraged Abdoulie to fit together every intricate part of a robot. For the first time, he felt success and approval.
“I used to be hard-headed,” Abdoulie explained at Ridder one recent afternoon. “Now I’m not that way anymore.”...
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