Monday, December 22, 2014

Braigo: Teen Student Created Braile Printer with LEGO Robotics


"Tech giant Intel backs schoolboy inventor

Shubham Banerjee
Mr Banerjee's original Braille printer was made out of Lego robotics parts

A 13-year-old boy from California has secured funding from Intel to bring a low-cost Braille printer to market.

Intel has not disclosed the exact sum it is giving to Shubham Banerjee, but the Reuters news agency reported it was "a few hundred thousand dollars".

The teenager rose to prominence after showing off a prototype version made with Lego kit, at the White House, when he was aged just 12.

Only a minority of blind people use Braille.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) estimates that about 4% of visually impaired children and young people in England currently use it.

Even so, the charity greeted the news.

"We welcome investment in technology that aims to improve everyday life for blind and partially sighted people, and especially applaud this brilliant initiative from such a young entrepreneur," said Clive Gardiner, RNIB's head of reading and digital services.

Shubham Banerjee Mr Banerjee showed off an early version of Braigo v2.0 in September

"Electronic Braille has great potential, but has been hindered to date by high device costs for users.

"New innovations for low-cost Braille printers such as this one... can transform reading choices for people with sight loss who read Braille.

"We look forward to hearing more about its progress."
Braille 2.0
Until now, Mr Banerjee's company - Braigo Labs - had relied on $35,000 (£21,920) worth of cash from his parents to turn what was originally a science fair project into a proper Silicon Valley start-up.

The original Braigo v1.0 printer used Lego's Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit as well as parts from a local home renovations store.

Users wrote text via an attached keypad, which the machine then converted into Braille, bashing out the raised bumps on a scroll of paper.

The invention won Mr Banerjee several awards and a place at the White House's inaugural Maker Faire in June, attended by President Barack Obama.

He has since begun work on a follow-up version, which is powered by Intel's budget-priced Edison chip and uses 3D-printed parts..."

Read the full story at its source:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Should a robot fly Coach, Business, First Class, or Cargo Hold?

Great little article from Daily Mail...


The robot that's going on HOLIDAY! Athena becomes the first robot to buy a seat on a passenger plane - and 'she' even has her own passport

  • The robot, dubbed Athena, was created by German roboticists 
  • It is the first humanoid robot to have paid for a seat on a passenger plane
  • Athena was checked onto a flight from Los Angeles International Airport
  • It was pushed in a wheelchair, dressed in a shirt and sneakers, onto Lufthansa flight number 9801
  • Owner Alexander Herzog is taking Athena to Germany to teach it to walk
  • It will be developed at the Max Planck Institute for Computational Learning and Motor Control Laboratory..."
It’s quite common for celebrities to cause a stir as they board flights in Los Angeles, but a very different kind of passenger excited paps at the airport today.
Athena became the first humanoid robot to have paid for a seat on a passenger plane when it boarded a Lufthansa flight to Germany.
The robot even had to check-in and collect its tickets before being strapped into the flight..."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jobs for Robots, YES... Jobs for Humans???

"As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up

A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published. Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years – allowing machines to mimic the human mind – are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago – and lower than any point in the 1990s..."

Read the full article at its source:               

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Soon, Robots Will Take Care of Old People.

The shape of life in the near future? It sure beats "I've fallen and I can't get up!"

"About Accompany Project
The proposed ACCOMPANY system will consist of a robotic companion as part of an intelligent environment, providing services to elderly users in a motivating and socially acceptable manner to facilitate independent living at home. The ACCOMPANY system will provide physical, cognitive and social assistance in everyday home tasks, and will contribute to the re-ablement of the user, i.e. assist the user in being able to carry out certain tasks on his/her own."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Finally, A Low Cost Student Robot for the Kids of the World!

"Harvard Researchers Build $10 Robot That Can Teach Kids to Code"

"Mike Rubenstein wants to put robots in the classroom.

Working with two other researchers at Harvard University, Rubenstein recently created what they call AERobot, a bot that can help teach programming and artificial intelligence to middle school kids and high schoolers. That may seem like a rather expensive luxury for most schools, but it’s not. It costs just $10.70. The hope is that it can help push more kids into STEM, studies involving science, technology, engineering, and math.

The tool is part of a widespread effort to teach programming and other computer skills to more children, at earlier stages. It’s called the code literacy movement, and it includes everything from new and simpler programming languages to children’s books that teach coding concepts.
Rubenstein’s project grew out of the 2014 AFRON Challenge, held back in January, which called for researchers to design low-cost robotic systems for education in the developing world. Part of Harvard’s Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, Rubstein has long studied swarm robotics, which aims to create herds of tiny robots that can behave as whole, and he ended up adapting one of his swarm systems in order to build AERobot. It’s a single machine—not a swarm bot—but it’s built from many of the same inexpensive materials.

He and his colleagues assembled most of the electronics with a pick-and-place machine—a machine that automatically builds printed circuit boards—and in order to further cut costs, they used vibration motors for locomotion and left out a chassis. The device doesn’t include its own programming interface or charger. It gets both from a desktop or laptop computer, plugging into the USB port. “There are no extra frills,” Rubenstein says..."

Read the full article at its source:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Using LEGO materials for Common Core Math Instruction

Interesting article (from EdTech K-12) on LEGO's recent announcement about the impending release of an item to address Common Core Instructional needs. I don't see why this idea can't successfully be extended to LEGO Robotics and Math Instruction in higher grades, as well. Seems like instructional magic waiting to happen, to me.


"New Lego Classroom Tool Is Building a Bridge to Common Core Readiness

Lego Group’s education division announced Wednesday that it is preparing to release MoreToMath, a package of 48 block-based exercises that target first- and second-grade math coursework.
The product comes at a time when many elementary school teachers are adapting to tougher standards for mathematics. The new Common Core standards encourage critical thinking, collaboration, technology use and digging deeper into the concepts behind the subject matter.
MoreToMath was designed to help students grasp math problems by modeling them with blocks and solving the problems in creative ways, says Leshia Hoot, Lego Education's senior segment manager for preschool and elementary education.
“We had educators saying they were really struggling with these (Common Core) math practices,” Hoot says. “We designed this to support those practices and real-world problem-solving using Lego bricks.”

Lego's curriculum development team, which is composed of former educators, created the exercises. The instructions are divided into solo and team-based exercises, allowing for differentiated learning. They also incorporate interactive whiteboard software that helps an entire class of students learn together. Using the included Mathbuilder software, teachers can also create their own activities.
In one of the simpler activities, students must construct a snake using only five bricks.
"You quickly realize there are multiple ways of solving this problem, and you have to think through the underlying counting and sequencing to solve it," Hoot says."

Read the full article at its source:


Robotics represent 3 out of 5 suggested tools for STEM Instruction on ISTE website!

Nice little article from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)

"5 STEM tools you can use for any subject

By Manorama Talaiver, Paula Klonowski Leach and Stephanie Playton 9/23/2014 Topics: STEM, Maker movement
Exposing students to STEM experiences can be an extremely engaging and effective way to foster the skills they will need in a global, competitive workplace. But don’t save these activities for science or math class. You can incorporate STEM learning tools in all core content areas to encourage critical thinking, collaboration and creativity while reinforcing valuable skills.
Of course, even for the most experienced STEM educators, picking the right tools can be tricky. To make it easier, we’ve come up with some factors that will help you choose the most appropriate and effective STEM tools for your classroom.
Grade level
Before settling on a tool, you should consider not only your students’ cognitive abilities, but also their motor skill development.
Squishy CircuitsSquishy Circuits (right) is a wonderful tool to teach very young students about basic concepts in electricity using conductive dough. Students can easily manipulate the materials and get the circuit to work.
MaKey MaKeyMaKey MaKey is a tool for slightly older children. With MaKey MaKey, students can make any conductive material act as the input device for a computer. Because it comes preprogrammed, students with no coding experience can use it. But MaKey MaKey also allows those who want to try coding to experiment.
LilyPadLilyPad Arduino (right), a sewable microcontroller, also reinforces concepts about electricity but is geared more toward older children, as the manual dexterity for sewing the components may be a bit challenging for young students. The LilyPad is also a wonderful introduction to some basic coding using the Arduino platform.
Subject area
You also need to think about what tool will work best for your subject area.
Finch RobotFinch Robot (left) is appropriate if your intent is to teach basic coding very quickly. This robot is ready out of the box and can support more than a dozen programming languages and environments.
Hummingbird Robotics KitHummingbird Robotics Kit (right) also allows students to develop basic programming but is different from Finch in that it offers users great flexibility and creativity in designing their robots.
If you don’t have enough time in a core content class to use these tools to their full potential, consider teaming up with your technology or computer science teacher to develop collaborative learning projects focused on a particular concept.
When factoring in the cost of these tools, make sure you don’t forget any extra materials you’ll need and whether the items can be reused.
Some tools, such as the Finch Robot, Squishy Circuits and MaKey MaKey, can be used many times by different students. After purchasing the kit, additional costs — such as buying ingredients for making dough or supplying conductive materials for students to explore — are typically minor.

Other tools, such as LilyPad Arduino and Hummingbird, are generally an annual expense because reusing them requires destroying existing projects.

Finding STEM learning tools that will fit your students’ needs, as well as your budget and time constraints, lets you provide learning experiences sure to engage your students while inspiring them to practice creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.
Manorama Talaiver, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. Her leadership in offering STEM learning opportunities for students and teachers has resulted in many national and international awards. Mano has been a member of ISTE for more than 25 years.
Paula Klonowski Leach, Ed.D., is a STEM learning specialist at the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. She has been an educator for 17 years and enjoys working with teachers to introduce them to new technologies and strategies that provide engaging opportunities for students.
Stephanie Playton is a STEM learning specialist at the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. As a former classroom teacher and instructional technology teacher, she is passionate about finding technology tools that support a creative learning environment."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Robots Are Making Chinese Students Smart!

Lest anyone think that Student Robotics isn't a global phenomenon, here's a wonderful little article from China Daily...
"Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

(China Daily)Updated: 2014-11-10 09:35

Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

Students watch intelligent robots developed by a Beijing company for use in education, elderly care, household chores and security purposes. [Photo / Providede to China Daily]

China is embracing high-tech products like never before, and the country's love of robotics especially has meant a surge in the number of companies determined to find the next big thing to attract high-spending consumers.

One of brightest prospects of recent years has been Union Brother Technology Co Ltd, or UB Tech - a Shenzhen-based enterprise set up in 2008 that specializes in manufacturing robotics that help children learn.

Liao Ke, its deputy general manager, explains the company has developed a range of products that allow children to sort, count and connect any number of different types of building bricks into whatever they want.

Liao said that ever since US blockbuster films such as Transformer were introduced to China, children have had a fascination with developing and building their own toys, which inevitably end up looking like futuristic machines.

Already partnering with retail giants, Tencent Holdings Ltd and the Walt Disney Co to sell its products, UB Tech has sold more than 1,000 units of its Alpha Intelligent Robot this year and expects to increase that to 50,000 next year, according to Liao.

More than 100 digital stores already sell its products across China, and Liao says he hopes to add another 400 by the end of next year.

The company claims its Delta robots now have a 70 percent market share among similar gadgets in the Chinese market.

"Children love it, and so do schools and training institutions, which form a key market for these products." Liao said.

This demand to bring robotics into the classroom has also spurned a huge rise in the number of courses being run by educational organizations.

Hou Jinggang, the president of Beijing Roborobo Education Technology Co Ltd, introduced South Korea's largest educational robot provider and training institution to China six years ago. Roborobo manufactures various educational Robo Kits that work in succession in order to expand a child's knowledge of robotics.

Roborobo now has 36 main institutions and 62 franchises in more than 22 cities across the country, taking in students as young as four years old. The average annual revenue of one institution is 22 million yuan ($3.6 million).

Simply explained, their programming uses visual punch cards that contain code blocks. Students can program their robots simply by adding and removing cards..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five Tools That Can Transform STEM Education - That Is, IF Teachers Use Them!

"Five Tools That Are Transforming STEM Education

The K-12 classroom doesn’t look the way it used to."

Here's a very nice little article from Atlantic Magazine that identifies 5 different "tools" that teachers can use to transform the instructional experience in STEM subjects (SCIENCE, Technology, Engineering, and MATH). The article points out that integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.”

I agree, it is inspiring to know that these tools are available (largely at accessible prices, as well) and that some teachers are already using these in their work with today's students. The very unfortunate and inexcusable downside to this, however, is that it is still a rarity for students to have this as part of their experience, at least in the all-important context of their regularly scheduled, required classes. Alas, even for that minority of students who get to work with these instructional tools, the majority of their use is relegated to After School and Summer "extra" interest classes and clubs where they help but don't really bring about the transformation that the author of this article alludes to. I've been speaking out to change this for a long time, now.

Robotics, and the other tools and approaches listed here should be part of every student's experience in an ongoing fashion. And there really is no reason for us to accept anything less than our schools actively using important technologies like the ones described here to captivate and educate our students. This should not be a curiosity or an extra or a special treat for our kids. It should be part of the very core of the education that they receive. That's why I wrote Getting Started with LEGO Robotics, so that the average teacher, without need for elaborate training and professional development, can bring these magnificent learning tools into their classrooms across the curriculum, even in subjects that are not thought of as STEM subjects (yes, there are important connections in Social Studies and Language Arts, too, as students study the impact of robots on our society and use language to describe the human experience of technology development and use).

"Twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee creates a braille printer out of Legos. (Wikimedia)

Since ancient times, scientifically minded people have tried to figure out the mechanisms behind the physical world. Astronomers observed the movement of the sun and stars, biologists watched humans and animals interact with their environment, engineers noticed the angular similarities behind structurally sound buildings. They may have had simple tools to aid them—a basic measuring device, a compass, perhaps an early telescope.

Today, teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics mostly stick to the theoretical aspects. Students must know the number of degrees in a triangle, but rarely do they get to put that knowledge to use through structured lessons.

The tools listed here are transforming the way teachers approach STEM education. Integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.

LegosUsed as manipulative teaching aids, raw materials for the next great robot, or simply building blocks for young students, Legos are great tools in the STEM classroom. Lego itself has developed a curriculum for how to use its products in schools. Lessons range from helping young students pair math concepts with how they are written to creating sophisticated robots that can complete specific tasks. Lego also organizes a number of robotics competitions for students from age 6 to 18..."

Read the rest of the article at its source:

Monday, October 27, 2014

District Adminstrators Discover Robotics

Here's a nice article on robotics in the classroom I just came across in District Administrator magazine. The content I post here for kids generally is much more interesting than content anywhere for administrators, but this piece provides some good information and I'll include it. Nice to see that district administrators are becoming  aware of something important and exciting that's going on in classrooms in some schools and really should be happening in all of them.

"Robots move from clubs to classrooms

Robots playing a bigger role in STEM education..."
"Many districts are charging up their K12 STEM courses with the use of robotics.
At the St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado, robotics has expanded from after-school clubs to their K12 curriculum.
This was due in part to the new STEM academy that opened at Skyline High School in 2009, says Axel Reitzig, St. Vrain’s STEM coordinator.
“Over the last five years or so, our district really developed a goal to be more STEM-orientated,” says Reitzig. “And with many of our elementary and middle schools feeding into Skyline, we felt like robotics would be something to get our students excited about STEM.”
On top of the curriculum, St. Vrain high school students can join robotics clubs and competition teams. They also can now take a course in which they design and build robots.
One activity, for example, involves a medical simulation in which students use their robots to move through an artificial human intestinal tract, says Reitzig.
The middle schools also use an aquatic robotics program. Students build a robot that can float and move through water using basic materials, such as PVC pipes."
"Students then test their robots on an obstacle course at a local pool. In elementary schools, students learn the basics of robotics from video game simulations.
The clear benefits of robotics are increased student engagement and collaboration—but there’s more, Reitzig says.
“To us, building STEM skills means really mastering technology,” he says. “When students are designing and building robots, there’s a lot of trial and error and they’re getting that immediate feedback, helping them piece together the whole picture.”
At Fayette County Schools in Kentucky, robotics has grown from an after-school activity into two middle school electives and elementary-level lessons, says Leanna Prater, the district’s technology resource coordinator.
In middle school science, robots are used in the study of motion. In one lesson, students build a robotic leg and foot that kicks a ball. They measure the distances of the kicks when the ball or power level of the robot is changed.
Fourth graders study geometry and angles with robots that rotate by different degrees..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Robotics has been taught in K-12 Classrooms for over 25 years

I first became aware of LEGO Robotics, one of the most perfect resources/approaches for fostering STEM and Robotics-based learning in our classrooms, in 1992. At that time I was assigned by my employer, the New York City Department of Education to administer and provide professional development and support for LEGO Robotics programs in 6 separate middle schools scattered around NYC. Since then, I've become ever more interested and involved in this approach, and I've witnessed LEGO Robotics become ever more sophisticated and popular, as well. If you haven't considered making this part of what you offer your students... If you've considered it, but haven't made a move  to get started, please do your teaching and your students' learning careers a big favor and just do it! By the way, everything you need to know about beginning is laid out in a user-friendly way in the book, getting started with LEGO Robotics: planning, purchasing supplies, implementing activities, etc.  

Mark Gura, Classroom Robotics

I came across the very nice little article below a few minutes ago and recommend it. I'll offer one dissenting opinion, though, while the resources referenced are no doubt very, very good, many teachers might get started without them, if determined to do a just a little reading and willing to let the power of student robotics take over...
"Robotics enters K-12 classrooms

These six robotics resources can help educators introduce the subject into their classrooms

The lesser-known elements of STEM are enjoying the limelight right now, with computer science and coding moving to the top of educators’ priority lists. Robotics, too, is following suit—the subject is quickly catching on in schools across the nation as programming emerges as a way to introduce project-based learning, problem solving, and critical thinking into classrooms.

When students have fun participating in STEM subjects in the early grades, that enthusiasm remains, and keeps students engaged as the subjects get tougher in high school and college.
A number of advocacy groups and universities offer resources to help educators weave robotics into teaching and learning.

The Robotics Academy at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute
The Robotics Academy is committed to using the motivational effects of robotics to excite students about science and technology. It is an educational outreach of Carnegie Mellon University.
Botball Educational Robotics Program
The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle and high school aged students in a team-oriented competition.
FIRST Family of Programs
The annual programs culminate in an international competition and celebration where teams win recognition, gain self-confidence, develop people and life skills, make new friends, and perhaps discover an unforeseen career path..."

Read the full article  at its source:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

AWESOME! "Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign"

As a popluar story goes, the word LEGO  means "Play Well." It's good to think that the company is smart  in its  choice of playmates and the games it deems worthy of being involved in.

The Guardian.states...

"Lego ends Shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign"

"Toymaker will not renew current multimillion pound deal, that sees Shell-branded Lego sets sold at petrol stations, following a viral video against Arctic drilling by the green group

Lego will not renew its marketing contract with Shell after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace to end a partnership that dates to the 1960s.

The environmental campaign group, protesting about the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic, had targeted the world’s biggest toy maker with a YouTube video that attracted nearly 6m views for its depiction of a pristine Arctic, built from 120kg of Lego, being covered in oil.

Initially Lego had resisted Greenpeace, arguing that it ought to deal directly with Shell, but on Thursday it will relent. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, the toy maker’s chief -executive, said Lego would honour its existing deal with Shell, which began in 2011, but “as things currently stand we will not renew the contract with Shell when the present contract ends”.

Lego toy sets are currently distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries, in a deal valued at £68m. Lego had previously argued that the relationship had a positive impact on the world by inspiring children with its toy sets.

Greenpeace activists also targeted Legoland in Windsor by dressing as Lego figures, while the campaign video, entitled “Everything is not awesome” attracted 5.9m views...."

Read the full article at its source: 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So you find a killer robot who's willing to play with you hiding in a cornfield, what do you do next, kids?

Envoy is Short Film About a Boy Who Finds a Killer Robot in a Cornfield

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thai Food Tasting Robot!

"You Call This Thai Food? The Robotic Taster Will Be the Judge...

BANGKOK — Hopscotching the globe as Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra repeatedly encountered a distressing problem: bad Thai food.
Too often, she found, the meals she sampled at Thai restaurants abroad were unworthy of the name, too bland to be called genuine Thai cooking. The problem bothered her enough to raise it at a cabinet meeting.
Her political party has since been thrown out of office, in a May military coup, but her initiative in culinary diplomacy lives on.
At a gala dinner at a ritzy Bangkok hotel on Tuesday the government will unveil its project to standardize the art of Thai food — with a robot.
Diplomats and dignitaries have been invited to witness the debut of a machine that its promoters say can scientifically evaluate Thai cuisine, telling the difference, for instance, between a properly prepared green curry with just the right mix of Thai basil, curry paste and fresh coconut cream, and a lame imitation...."
Read the full story at its source:               

Thursday, October 2, 2014

RoboSnail: a Robot Kids Can Observe and Learn from Directly!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This very nice article was sent in by the provider of RoboSnail, which just may turn out to be one of the very first robots that young people have direct experience with in their daily lives - either in their own homes or in school. Kids need to become familiar and comfortable with robots being part of their immediate surroundings, and items like RoboSnail are an opportunity to provide that experience right now.



by Milan Rafailovich President/CEO of AquaGenesis,
in collaboration with

The idea behind Robosnail was to take over the drudgery of cleaning algae and slime off the walls of an aquarium in order to keep the inside sparkling clean and easy to see through. As any aquarium owner can tell you, that’s a thankless and never-ending task. Some types of fish as well as living snails will do the job, but it usually takes a human touch to get it done right.

Not anymore, not with RoboSnail on the job. The RoboSnail takes over the job of underwater window cleaning quickly and painlessly. After a short setup session, RoboSnail crawls around the tank day after day, removing all trace of algae buildup without ever needing any help. Maintenance is minimal and only needs doing about once every couple of months.

Not only is RoboSnail good at keeping an aquarium clean, it’s also an interesting learning tool for robot lovers, especially for those interested in the practical application of robotics. Watch this window scrubber and you can learn about some of the most basic and important principles of robotics in a new and engaging way.

When you start RoboSnail, the first thing it does is to use its sensors to check out the top and sides of the aquarium. Sensors are essential in robotics, because they provide the input needed for the robot to function. Without any way to gather data from the world around it, all a robot can do is to sit – or to blunder around and crash into stuff. RoboSnail uses its sensors to gather information about the aquarium, so that it knows where the top and side edges are.

Once it has determined the lay of the land, so to speak, RoboSnail puts that information to work by calculating the most effective pattern to use to clean the glass. You help out a bit here with getting it set up, but that’s all.

RoboSnail owners can learn a lot about programming robots, how sensors work, and the process of creating and using search patterns – or, in the case of RoboSnail, cleaning patterns. RS does it all.

While you are watching this robot go back and forth as it cleans your aquarium glass, it may really sink in about just how handy a robot can be, and that it doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. In many ways RoboSnail has a lot in common with the robots that beginning enthusiasts build to see how robots work. Builders try out sensors, search patterns, different kinds of motors, and they input programs that they hope will make it do what they want. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

This application gives you a real-life view of how robots work. For some real fun, try switching it to different sizes and shapes of aquariums, and watch how it not only registers the new size, it also changes its cleaning pattern to the most efficient one for the new location. Not only is it interesting and engaging to watch, it’s also a practical lesson in the use of artificial intelligence.

Since we have launched Robosnail many aquarium owners have been relieved from the boring task of aquarium cleaning but there’s a flip side to that. It seems that some robot enthusiasts are setting up aquariums just so they can have an excuse to have a RoboSnail of their own!

PS: How do people work with RoboSnail? The video below gives some insight...

See previous post about RoboSnail:

A pack of cheerleader robots? What?

"These Japanese robot cheerleaders could help save lives on the road

Meet the Murata Cheerleaders...

... Murata Boy rides a bicycle. Murata Girl rides a unicycle. But the Murata Cheerleaders, the latest iteration of androids from Japan’s Murata Manufacturing, are another proposition entirely — an army of small robots that balance on metal balls, dancing and flashing lights in unison.

The Cheerleaders use gyroscopic sensors with inverted-pendulum control to stay upright which, Murata’s Koichi Yoshikawa assures me during an interview in the company’s Tokyo headquarters, is a significant challenge in itself.  It appears to work well enough — I played with a Murata Cheerleader that was spinning on a desk in a conference room, and it managed to hold its position even when I nudged it with a fair amount of force.

But in order for a group of the robots to dance together, they need to be outfitted with ultrasonic microphones and infrared sensors to detect objects around them and work out their relative positions.  Technology developed in collaboration with researchers from Kyoto University helps communicate each robot’s location and allow them to perform in synchronization. While the routines are pre-programmed so far, Yoshikawa says that a system enabling real-time editing is in development.

Despite Japan’s affinity for cheerleader-style pop idol groups, Murata has no plans to make its latest robots commercially available. Instead, the project is designed to demonstrate the company’s technological expertise, with the possibility of adapting the principles to other industries. Murata says the technology that helps the robots ascertain their physical location could, for example, be used in traffic control networks with a view to reducing accidents. Similar V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) systems are being developed by companies including Ford and GM. "We believe that the wireless communication of sensor data could become a core infrastructure for the advanced integration of people and objects in smart societies," says Murata SVP Yuichi Kojima in a press release...":

Read the full article at its source:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Warning! Warning! Approach Lonely Robot With Caution!

"Short film: A lonely robot looking for friends is not what it seems...

All this lonely robot wants is for someone to play with—but he doesn't seem to have much luck. You'll feel bad for the poor adorable robot until you see the film's shocking final twist.
It starts off feeling a little like Wall-E. The robot, L3.0, moves around a deserted world going about its business and leaves paper airplane notes asking for friends. It doesn't seem like it ever finds any until one day a butterfly comes into L3.o's life. That's when things start to turn. I feel weird for feeling bad for it now..."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Soft Robot Is TUUUUUFFFFFF!!!!!

Friday, September 19, 2014

KIds" Watch Your Toilet Bowl for a Robot Attack!

Inspired by octopus tentacles, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL)'s latest robot is as squishy as can be. It's a so-called "soft robot," meaning it lacks any hard mechanical pieces. In this case, the bot is made entirely of silicon rubber, poured into 3-D printed molds.
The tentacle features hollow chambers on either side of each of its segments. To move the bot, the CSAIL team pumps pressurized air into one side or another. As the silicon segments blow up like bubble gum, they're pushed in different directions to produce snake-like movements, which let the tentacle curve around corners.

Like other soft robots, this tentacle has potential in search and rescue missions -- where debris might make traditional robots prone to damage, or simple unable to squeeze through -- and for work with humans and animals, who might be injured by the hard edges of other bots.

The algorithm that controls the robot could eventually allow it to snake through pipes without a human pilot. Instead of needing constant direction, the tentacle would know how to move its body based on the shape of its environment. CSAIL engineers also hope to give a future version of the robot the ability to grip and move objects.

Read the full article at its source:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hummingbird Robotics Kits: An Instructional Resource With Great Potential!

PRESS RELEASE: BirdBrain Technologies’ Hummingbird Robotics Kit Wins a Learning® Magazine 2015 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom

Panel of classroom teachers chose electronics kit based on its quality, instructional value, ease of use and innovation

Pittsburgh, PA, September 15, 2014 BirdBrain Technologies’ Hummingbird Robotics Kit was named a winner of Learning® Magazine’s 2015 Teachers’ ChoiceSM Award for the Classroom, one of the most recognized and prestigious awards in the educational market. The electronics kit was chosen by a panel of teachers from across the country as one of only 37 winners based on its quality, instructional value, ease of use, and innovation.

“The Hummingbird Robotics Kit provides students of all ages with an engaging, hands-on way to learn about key STEM concepts, from robotics to programming to electronics, and more,” said Tom Lauwers, founder of BirdBrain Technologies and co-creator of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit. “This award further reinforces the impact our kits have in the classroom and is a particularly great honor since we were evaluated and chosen by actual classroom teachers.” 


The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a spin-off product of Carnegie Mellon's CREATE lab. The kit is designed to introduce engineering and robotics activities to upper elementary students, while at the same time providing more complex robotics design opportunities to older students, through an innovative, arts and crafts-based approach. Students use the kit to make robots, kinetic sculptures, and animatronics built out of a combination of kit parts and crafting materials. Students can use the kits with intuitive software programs such as Scratch, Snap!, and the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer – or more advanced programming such as PythonJava, and Processing – to bring the construction materials to life.


“The Hummingbird Robotics Kit enables endless ways to integrate STEM innovations through creativity and inventiveness,” said Stephanie Cotsifas, STEM learning specialist at Institute on Teaching through Technology and Innovation Practice (ITTIP), who uses the kits with her students. “The age range and project ideas are endless with the different ways you can program the microcontroller. It is a great way to get students creating and designing.”


Building off the success of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit, BirdBrain Technologies will be launching the Hummingbird Duo later this year. This second-generation kit will include the addition of tether-less operation, Arduino mode, and more.

To learn more about the Hummingbird Robotics Kit, visit

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

RoboSnail Robot Eliminates Dirty Job of Cleaning Home Aquarium Tanks,

Evolution of the RoboSnail:  From Idea to Reality
The saying that necessity is the mother of invention actually is more true than you may imagine.  In fact, this especially true when developing tools or new process methods in order to achieve a desired end result to already existing or potential problems.  This necessity to develop a better process was the driving force when it came to the development of my current item the RoboSnail, the world’s first and only automated aquarium glass cleaner.

Coming Up With the Idea
The “ah-ha” moment came while I was attending San Diego State University, pursuing my degree for international business.  I used my aquarium as my outlet for stress and a way to escape the day to day drudgery of everyday life.  But with everything life sometimes has a way of creeping into your tranquil zones or escapes and reminds you that with everything there are equal and opposite forces keeping the world at balance.  In the case of a salt water reef aquarium the reality was that it needed a lot of maintenance in order to maintain a living slice of ocean in your living room.  So after putting hard days at work and school sometimes the aquarium would become neglected and so that became a job. It was just another thing added to the list of things to do before I could have some me time.  The biggest noticeable obstruction to enjoying my hobby was not necessarily the water parameters, but the green blanket of algae that had coated the entire surface of my main viewing glass within just a few days.  Now I would have to clean that before I could enjoy the tank.  More neglect meant more intensive cleaning sessions which sometimes led to accidents like scratching your glass by scraping too hard.  This led to the necessity question: Is there a better way?  On that day, the idea for the RoboSnail was born.  So what was the next step?  Was it possible to make such a device?  Who would do it, how much would it cost, where would it get done, and the list kept growing.  These are fundamental questions to consider when creating anything new and can be applied to any “widget”...

Read the full article at its source:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hey Kids, save up your $$$ to buy your own adult robot at the phone store, soon!

"Humanoid robots named 'Pepper' will be on sale next year in the U.S.

TOKYO • Billionaire Masayoshi Son will start selling his humanoid robots named "Pepper" at Sprint stores in the U.S. by next summer, part of SoftBank's push to take the technology beyond factory floors.

SoftBank also has received between 300 and 400 inquiries about Pepper from companies in finance, food service and education, Fumihide Tomizawa, chief executive officer of SoftBank Robotics, said Monday. The 4-foot robot dances, makes jokes and estimates human emotions based on expressions. Pepper will go in sale in Japan in February for $1,900 while the company hasn't set a U.S. price.
SoftBank, which paid $22 billion for control of Sprint last year, is investing in robotics as Japan seeks to double the value of domestic production to 2.41 trillion yen by 2020. SoftBank has developed an operating system that controls robots in the same way Google Inc.'s Android software runs smartphones, with the platform open to customization for use in construction, health care and entertainment industries.

"We will sell Pepper in the United States within a year after gathering information in Japan," Tomizawa said. "I won't be surprised if Pepper sales will be half to business and half to consumers."

SoftBank Robotics was established as a subsidiary in July to direct the company's business and sell Pepper, which is equipped with a laser sensor and 12 hours of battery life.
The stock has declined 18 percent this year while the benchmark Topix index is little changed.
The robot was initially targeted at families and the elderly before getting attention for business use since its June unveiling.

Tomizawa declined to specify the company's sales targets for robotics. SoftBank expects to generate revenue through applications and original content as customers personalize their robots.
"The basic premise is to produce profit," Tomizawa said. "Son is aggressively involved in the project and we report to him one or two times a month."

Son said in 2010 his vision was to create a society that coexists with intelligent robots. The SoftBank chairman has said Pepper is a result of his time spent watching the TV show "Astro Boy," an animated 1960s series based on a character who couldn't experience emotions.
In July, Son said he expects to improve labor productivity by replacing 90 million jobs with 30 million robots.

"We could enter the robot business for industrial use in the mid or long term," Tomizawa said.
Pepper was initially developed by SoftBank subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics. The robot operating system, which isn't currently used by Pepper, was developed by its Asratec division. The businesses continue to operate as separate units of SoftBank.

Read the full article at its  source:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Robot Butlers Become Part of the Hotel Staff

">>> Robots are everywhere, including wandering around your hotel.

Starwood, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, is rolling out two robotic “Botlrs” inexplicably named A.L.O. in their Cupertino Aloft Hotel.

The robotic butlers, built by Savioke, are able to perform tasks in the front of the house and the back of the house, as well as navigate around guests and use elevators. For the most part, it seems that the Botlrs will be delivering amenities to guest rooms in lieu of actual humans, “freeing up existing talent’s time and allowing them to create a more personalized experience for guests.”

When a guest calls down and asks for a toothbrush or extra towels, hotel employees simply load up the robot with the requested items, dial in the room number, and the Botlr handles the rest.

Using a combination of sensors and WiFi/4G connectivity to communicate with the hotel and the elevator software, the ROS-powered robot can get to and from the rooms without breaking anything or injuring anyone.

When the robot arrives at the room, the guest can enter in a rating on the robot’s touchscreen, or offer a “tip” in the form of a tweet to the hashtag #MeetBotlr.

“This is currently a pilot at Aloft Cupertino and is under consideration, though not yet confirmed, to be implemented at Aloft Sunnyvale when it opens at the end of this year,” said Brian McGuinness of Aloft Hotels. “Based on the success of the pilot, we will look to roll out at our nearly 100 hotels around the world in 2015 and beyond.”<<<"

Read the full article at its  source:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Insightful Thoughts about Robots for Students

While I personally think of the robots that students use more as Learning Resources than as Toys, the following quotes that I found at Thousands of Tiny Robots: The Modular Robotics Blog to be thought provoking and insightful!
From the post titled "Why Robots? An Introduction"...  

"... robot toys are a lot of fun and have some great life skills embedded into the play experience."


"...robot toys are the opening move in a game of chess that could result in humanity reaching fantastic new heights"

I absolutely agree and recommend that you check out the full  post at the blog, the source of the above quotes:


PS - by the way, I was quite impressed with what I saw of MOSS/Modular Robotics at the recent ISTE Conference in Atlanta (June, 2014). You'll find it in my Report on Robotics Resources @ ISTE that I posted shortly after returning from the conference

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Survival of the Fittest? Kids, Your Future Could Include Battling Robots...

"To die, you have to be alive, first!" 

Here's the first trailer from AUTOMATA, an upcoming Sci Fi movie with a scary vision about an all too possible  future.


Can't wait to see this one! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Man vs. Robot Ping Pong Match: Incredible Demonstration of Robotics Technology

"Man against machine.

The unbelievably fast KUKA robot faces off against one of the best table tennis players of all time. Who has the best technique? Who will win the first ever table tennis duel of human versus robot?
Watch this thrilling commercial of table tennis and robotics performed at the highest level. The KUKA KR AGILUS demonstrates its skills with the table tennis racket - a realistic vision of what robots can be capable of in the future.

Timo Boll, the German table tennis star, is the new brand ambassador for KUKA Robotics in China. The collaboration celebrates the inherent speed, precision, and flexibility of KUKA's industrial robots in tandem with Boll's electrifying and tactical prowess in competition. To celebrate the new KUKA Robotics factory in Shanghai, the thrilling video was a highlight of the Grand Opening on March 11th, 2014. The 20,000 sq. meter space will produce the KR QUANTEC series robot as well as the KRC4 universal controller for the Asian market. As a market leader in China, KUKA aims to further develop automation in the country while providing a modern and employee-friendly working environment.

music production: Lost in Music; composer: Matthias Neuhauser; soundmix: Robert MIller c.o. m-sound:

See the video and text at its source:

Monday, August 11, 2014

In Kinshasa,Democratic Republic of the Congo - Robot Traffic Robot Cops Tackle Traffic Problems

Robot cops rule! Humanoids take over streets of Kinshasa to tackle traffic chaos

How do you solve the problem of choking road traffic in one of the world's bustling megacities? You bring in the robot cops.

In Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, two humanoid robots have been installed in high-traffic areas to regulate the flow of vehicles and help drivers and pedestrians traverse the roads safely.
The goal is to ease the traffic woes of commuters and cut the number of road accidents in the center of Kinshasa, a city of some 10 million people....

Read the full article at its source:

Friday, August 1, 2014

From ISTE Blog: Easy tools for using robotics in the classroom

(Here's a nice little piece that describes a few of the many ways that teachers and students use robotics to foster learning. Of the resources and approaches mentioned,LEGO Robotics, by far, is the most popular... re-blogged from ISTE Connects Blog)

"Easy tools for using robotics in the classroom"

By Amanda Pressly 6/14/2014 Topics: Robotics
"Using robotics to inspire learning isn’t a new concept in the ed tech community, but finding easy-to-implement resources for getting started continues to be a struggle for many educators, parents and students.

Here’s a look at how members of the ISTE community are using robotics both in and out of the classroom:
Robots for all learners
RobotBASIC: This is a free tool for schools, teachers and students. Developed with help from 33-year education veteran John Blankenship, it’s among the most powerful educational programming languages available, with nearly 900 commands and functions.
LEGO Robotics: Perhaps one of the most widely used robotics programs used in classrooms, LEGO Robotics lets students at any learning level create and command robots. Middle school teacher Kelly Schnittker led a team of students who competed in a Lego Robotics competition , where they learned as much about problem solving and collaboration as they did engineering and programming.
EZ-Robot: EZ-Robot provides a platform that scales between beginner and advanced users, who learn logic, soldering, electronics and modular design, all while modifying a toy shell into a personal robot. Business developer Dennis Kambeitz uses EZ-Robot at home with his sixth grade son. Within the first hour of use, his son had activated the built-in camera, turned on the robot’s facial and color tracking abilities, and had created two custom movement sequences that included playing back his recorded voice through the robot's speaker.
Raspberry Pi : The idea behind the tiny and affordable computer for kids came in 2006 when the developers noticed a year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of students applying learning through computer science. Educator Thomas Dubick inspires STEM learning among his female middle school students using Raspberry Pi. Watch their TED Talk to see the amazing work they’ve been doing.

Specialized tools and programs  
For early education: Bee-Bot is an exciting new robot designed for young children. ICT coordinator Linda Bradfield has recently begun using Bee-Bots in her K-2 classrooms and has found them to be a wonderful tool for teaching perseverance, mathematical concepts, collaborative skills and much more.
For college-bound students: Using unmanned aircraft, high school seniors in Alaska participate in activities such as simulated search-and-rescue operations, sea ice charting and data collection for a NASA aviation safety project . Program director John Monahan says benefits of the project include “giving students a bird’s-eye view of their communities and … exciting them about college and about STEM careers.”
For virtual education: Using robots to enhance virtual learning is something we once only dreamed about. But educators in Kodiak, Alaska , will soon be able to roll into their distance classrooms on two wheels! ISTE member Bob Whicker, director of the Consortium for Digital Learning at the Association of Alaska School Boards, is on the forefront of making this futuristic dream a reality throughout rural Alaska.

How are you using robotics in your school or classroom?"


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kids Teach Kids About Robotics!

Here's a nice article found at that illustrates the appeal robotics has for young people
Hannah Tipperman helps Abhinav and Anirudh Gianesan with their robot in a program created with her twin, Rachael.
Hannah Tipperman helps Abhinav and Anirudh Gianesan with their robot in a program created with her twin, Rachael. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
"Matt Greenwood seemed to hold his breath as he stared at his robot rolling through a maze on the floor Tuesday night. The robot crossed the finish line, and the 9-year-old boy's face lit up. "It did it!" he said.

"You want to keep programming?" his father, Dan, asked.

"Yeah!" Matt said, grabbing the robot and rushing to a laptop that Hannah Tipperman had set up to control it.

"They think they're playing with toys, but they're learning some pretty advanced concepts," said Tipperman.

For two years, Tipperman and her twin sister, Rachael, have run a nonprofit, Robot Springboard, to teach robotics to kids.
They've taught children in Alaska. They've worked with the Intel Corp. to bring their camp to San Jose, Costa Rica. And they won about $7,000 in grants to run a weeklong camp for middle-school girls at Drexel University.

The Tippermans are just 17.

"This is so far beyond what I would expect from somebody their age," said Jeffrey Popyack, a computer-science associate professor at Drexel. "They want to teach the whole world, I'm pretty sure."

The sisters, seniors at the all-girl Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, hope to do what they can to show kids, especially girls, what's possible. Less than 25 percent of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs at middle and high schools and colleges were female in 2010, according to a 2012 federal report.

Teachers, foundations, and countries worldwide are looking for ways to increase the number of girls in these fields. The Girl Rising movement, which advocates for girls' education worldwide, has inspired the sisters.

The Tippermans focus on helping to start robotics programs using five robot kits on loan from Drexel. They have applied for grants to buy more.

To pay for their travel expenses, they babysit, do odd jobs, and sell old clothes. Friends, family members, and students have donated money.

Parents of kids they teach sometimes assume their father is the instructor. Richard Tipperman, an eye doctor, said his daughters know much more about robotics than what he's picked up. He's their assistant in class, but he's mainly the chauffeur and heavy lifter, the girls said, laughing.

The sisters are helping a high school senior in Colorado start her own robotics education program and hope to get more high school students throughout the country involved. They see their youth as an asset that makes them less intimidating to kids.

"This isn't someone who has a Ph.D.," Rachael said. "This is someone that's trying to get through precalc."

The girls stumbled into robotics one afternoon in the seventh grade at Baldwin. Hannah spotted a flier for a robotics program.

"I could have gone the rest of my life not realizing I really like programming," Hannah said.
Last year, they contacted Francisco Burgos, the head of the Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica, to pitch their robotics curriculum. The girls ran a weeklong camp in June at the school, which stands in the middle of a fog forest and teaches 120 children.

Burgos had been looking for opportunities in technology for his students. He said the sisters were an inspiration to the 25 camp participants, especially the seven girls.

"You could see that something was happening in that classroom," Burgos said. "Hannah and Rachael planted a seed in my kids."

Burgos said he plans to discuss how his school can develop a robotics extracurricular class or its own robotics camp.

While they were in Costa Rica, the girls also partnered with Intel to teach 60 middle schoolers in San Jose.

In June 2013, the girls were in Homer, Alaska, teaching at their first camp. They said they chose to start there to prove to themselves and everyone else that their nonprofit could succeed...."

Read the full article at its source: