Saturday, July 30, 2016

Robots as Social Commentary: Great Lesson for Kids!

Fascinating item from GIZMODO...

That Homeless Person You Just Helped Might Actually Be a Robot

This doesn’t mean you should stop being helpful or charitable to homeless people you encounter on the street—but if you see this guy, there’s something about him you should know. At a recent Maker Faire in Nantes, France, a man wearing worn clothing and pushing a shopping cart actually turned out to be a lifelike robotic hobo, or robo, as they prefer to be called.

Dirk’s movements look realistic, mostly because we’re used to seeing homeless people who are sick or injured slowly shuffling along the street. The robot’s not autonomous, though. Its creator, Fred Abels, hides nearby, usually among the crowd of people that Dirk draws, and controls the robot like a puppet. That allows the bot to realistically interact with people, looking and nodding in their direction, and then playing an organ when someone gives it money.

It’s part performance art, part social experiment, as people slowly start to realize that Dirk isn’t an actual human. But dressing it up as a homeless person serves as convincing camouflage for the robot, and helps temporarily overcome the uncanny valley that usually gives humanoid robots away. No one tell the Terminators.

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What? Teachers Don't Want to Give Their Kids Robotics? That's Not Smart, Colleagues!

Interesting article about a disappointing phenomenon :( :( :(  from TEACHER/Education Week

"Study: Teachers Are Wary of Using Robots in Class, Despite Seeing Benefits

15322867092_cff5ddf549_o.jpgEducational robotics have become increasingly reliable, affordable, and appealing, educators in the field believe—yet they still have qualms about using them for instruction, says a new European study that looks at teachers' attitudes and perceptions of robots in the classroom.

For the study, which was recently published in IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, a team of researchers from NCCR Robotics and the European research unit LSRO, EPFL surveyed a small group of teachers in Switzerland who had completed training sessions in 2013 and 2014 for the Thymio educational robot. Thymio is a small programmable robot on wheels that lights up in different... "

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Robots for English Language Arts Learning

Great article from KQED news Mind/Shift... 

How Robots in English Class Can Spark Empathy and Improve Writing

Mention robots to many English teachers and they’ll immediately point down the hall to the science classroom or to the makerspace, if they have one. At many schools, if there’s a robot at all, it’s located in a science or math classroom or is being built by an after-school robotics club. It’s not usually a fixture in English classrooms. But as teachers continue to work at finding new entry points to old material for their students, robots are proving to be a great interdisciplinary tool that builds collaboration and literacy skills.

“For someone like me who teaches literature by lots of dead white guys, teaching programming adds relevance to my class,” said Jessica Herring, a high school English teacher at Benton High School in Arkansas. Herring first experimented using Sphero, essentially a programmable ball, when her American literature class was studying the writing of early settlers. Herring pushed the desks back and drew a maze on the floor with tape representing the journey from Europe to the New World. Her students used class iPads and an introductory manually guided app to steer their Spheros through the maze.

Herring, like many English teachers, was skeptical about how the Sphero robot could be a useful teaching tool in her classroom. She thought that type of technology would distract students from the core skills of reading, writing and analyzing literature. But she decided to try it after hearing about the success of another English teacher across the country.

“The conversation we had afterwards about those explorers coming to the New World was really amazing,” Herring said during a presentation on her experiences at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. Because students had struggled to keep their Spheros in the maze, they understood in a personal way how frustrating it must have been for early settlers who got lost, backtracked and eventually made it to a new land.

“They went from piloting these robots to talking about these bigger ideas and having this empathy for people in history,” Herring said. Students commented that they could understand why the Puritans had to believe in a higher power while making the journey, and expressed respect for their tenacity. Herring began to see how the Spheros could give students a more visceral point of connection to themes in the books they were studying, and began scheming more ways to connect programming to reflection and writing.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

RobotsLAB. A big step forward in Teaching With Robots...

Just came across these videos. This seems to me to be a big step forward in bringing Student Robotics into the Math curriculum.

Listen to this teacher explain how she sees the connection between learning Math and Robotics... I think she's got it!

More to come in the future, I'm sure, on this group and its approach to making robotics part of learning in our schools...

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Duval School District to engage students in FIRST LEGO League and Crucial STEM Learning!

Great article from  But please, "Playing with LEGOs?" C'mon! Those kids will be LEARNING!!! Way to go, Superintendent Vitti!

Duval Schools look to Legos to expand interest in science, spark imagination

50 schools to be involved

The Bolt Bots team from Columbia City Elementary School in Lake City and their supporters react as their robot completes a task during the FIRST Lego League Regional Championship held in January in Jacksonville. The Duval School Board will vote on whether to expand such Lego clubs in area schools this month.
The Bolt Bots team from Columbia City Elementary School in Lake City and their supporters react as their robot completes a task during the FIRST Lego League Regional Championship held in January in Jacksonville. The Duval School Board will vote on whether to expand such Lego clubs in area schools this month.

Benjamin Wright, 11, aims his team's robot during a FIRST Lego League Regional Championship in January.

Duval students in 50 schools will be playing next year with Legos, with School Board approval.

Along the way they’ll learn about math, computer coding, engineering, problem-solving and teamwork, organizers said.

It’s part of a proposal Duval’s School Board is expected to vote on this month.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has proposed spending $187,700 to set up Lego robotics teams in 50 schools, an increase from the 36 schools currently operating such clubs.

The long-term vision, said Mason Davis, assistant superintendent, is to have robotics teams in all 161 Duval public schools. He said the mostly extra curricular activity will spark students’ engagement in technology fields and hopefully get them more involved in math, science and computers in class.

Vitti said Duval’s investment will be unprecedented among large, urban school districts.

“We are setting a trend as a large urban school district to have this many schools participating in FIRST Lego League,” Vitti said.

That claim could not be verified by FIRST Lego officials Friday.

Vitti wants the school district to work with Renaissance Jax, a nonprofit Lego League affiliate partner for FIRST, the national nonprofit entity which organizes thousands of robotics and technology competitions around the country, involving teams from kindergarten through 12th grade.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

“This is going to be the first proposal where a school district contracts for the growth and management of their FIRST robotics teams to a FIRST affiliate partner,” said Mark McCombs, head of Renaissance Jax, which already runs dozens of FIRST Lego teams and events in 20 Florida counties.

The contract would involve training teachers and volunteers to run the teams and coordinating practices and qualifying competitions.

In 2011, Renaissance Jax had 14 teams and no tournament. It had 220 teams last year totaling 1,100 students who competed in tournaments at the University of North Florida and Jacksonville University.

Legos are plastic bricks of various colors and size that can be combined to build things.

Lego also makes parts and kits that robotics teams use to build programmable robots for team competitions, including the FIRST Lego League tourneys.

Lego touts the robotics teams and competitions as having important educational benefits.

Team surveys show that 86 percent of participants say they are more interested in doing well at school, 84 percent are motivated to take challenging math and science courses, and 80 percent are more interested in STEM-related jobs.

The gender gap in science and technology isn’t evident at the tournaments, McCombs said. About half the competitors last year were boys and half were girls.

“They are learning about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math education) and finding out that they are way more capable than the adults around them have told them they are,” McCombs said....

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