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: