Monday, November 28, 2016

LEGO Robots Win at World Robot Olympiad in India

"2 Taiwanese Teenagers Win World Robot Olympiad in India

W DELHI (AP) — Whizzing around a green felt table chasing a soccer ball beaming infrared light, the boxy robot shoots—and scores—and wins its Taiwanese teenage creators first prize at this year's student robot games.

The two breadbox-sized scooters, playing goalie and kicker, from the team called "Wings of Storm" were up against another Taiwanese team's robots in the "Football" category of the World Robot Olympiad held over the weekend in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

"We have been practicing since primary school," said Liaw Jia-wun, 15, thrilled to have won with his teammate. "We never in our lives could think that we would win the world championship."
Other categories at the robotics championships—attended by more than 450 teams from 50 countries—asked participants to create robotics solutions to reduce or recycle waste, leading teams to build robots that emptied trash bins or scooped up building debris for future use.

Some participants were as young as 6 years old, while others were approaching university graduation.
In the more advanced robotics category, robots had to be preprogrammed for the automated challenge of picking up mini bowling balls and knocking down pins. That meant the robots had to sense where the target was and hit it without any intervention from their creators.

The idea is to teach students computer programming as robotics moves beyond factory applications to everyday functions, said engineer Dominic Bruneau, the head coach for the Canadian teams.
"More and more, we will be interacting with robots" in our daily lives, Bruneau said. The student engineers are not just working on theory but are "doing practical work of building real stuff and trying to solve problems."

South African teacher and coach Nicky Du Plessis said the games helped kids develop key skills.
"We start with the fundamentals. We believe that if kids can start from a very young age ... it teaches them how to build," she said. "Then it teaches them logical thinking. How to change something quickly."

Read the full article at its source:

Click on book cover for information

Click on book cover for information
Getting Started with LEGO Robotics. Anyone who works with kids can do LEGO Robotics, a rich and highly motivating platform for important STEM Learning! (surprisingly affordable, too) This books explains it all!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

CoderZ: An Appealing Student Robotics Approach

Looks like a powerful program... I find the Virtual AND/OR Real World Robots aspect to be appealing... I expect to investigate this one further and hope to provide an in-depth review here!

Mark +

Monday, November 21, 2016

Former Ugandan Child Soldiers NOW High School Student Robotics Team Members

"Shoreline high school students mentor team from Uganda in robot building challenge"


SHORELINE, Wash. - It's a partnership born out of a shared love of robotics, but the students working together at King's High School in Shoreline couldn't have come from more different backgrounds.
All this week, five students from Beacon of Hope, a secondary school in Soroti, Uganda have been laboring with their mentors, the members of the King's High School CyberKnights robotics team, to build a robot for the First Tech Challenge competition.

It's a monumental step forward for the team from Uganda, whose members were once child soldiers, kidnapped from their families and forced to commit atrocities by Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebels fighting government forces in the country’s bloody civil war.

"The only thing I could see was death and at any time they could kill us," said Denish Odele, now 24, who was forced to learn to handle an AK-47 and had to survive by shooting people he knew.
He showed a scar the length of his forearm where a rebel commander cut it open with a bayonet after Denish didn't follow his order to find banana leaves for dinner.

For 40,000 children caught in the Ugandan civil war, hope was fleeting and survival was dim.
"We would not have any big dream," said Denish.

But then came a remarkable turnaround.

Denish was captured by government forces and beaten but survived. He made it to Beacon of Hope, run by Seattle based non-profit Pilgrim Africa. The intent of the school is to provide an educational opportunity for children caught in the civil war, many who survived without their parents..."
Read the full article at its source: nts-mentor-team-from-uganda-in-robot-building-challenge 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Robot Bees to Pollinate Crops?

A frightening response to what may turn out to be human-created decline of nature... humans applying technology to solve problems... GREAT! BUT, what follows? That they tell themselves they don't have to worry about being destructive any longer because their technology will solve it all? (reminds me of the mess we create with antibiotics)... is this a slippery slope to accelerated self destruction. 

"Tiny Flying Robots Are Being Built To Pollinate Crops Instead Of Real Bees

Honeybees, which pollinate nearly  one-third of the food we eat , have been dying at unprecedented rates because of a mysterious phenomenon known as  colony collapse disorder  (CCD). The situation is so dire that in late June the White House gave a  new task force  just 180 days to devise a coping strategy to protect bees and other pollinators. The crisis is generally attributed to a mixture of disease, parasites, and pesticides.  
Other scientists are pursuing a different tack: replacing bees. While there's no perfect solution,  modern technology offers hope.

Last year, Harvard University researchers led by engineering professor Robert Wood introduced the first RoboBees, bee-size robots with the ability to lift off the ground and hover midair when tethered to a power supply. The details were published in the journal Science. A coauthor of that report, Harvard graduate student and mechanical engineer Kevin Ma, tells Business Insider that the team is "on the eve of the next big development." Says Ma: "The robot can now carry more weight The project represents a breakthrough in the field of micro-aerial vehicles. It had previously been impossible to pack all the things needed to make a robot fly onto such a small structure and keep it lightweight.

Superthin robot wings flap 120 times a second. Harvard University

A Bee-Placement?
The researchers believe that as soon as 10 years from now these RoboBees could artificially pollinate a field of crops, a critical development if the commercial pollination industry cannot recover from severe yearly losses over the past decade.."

Read the full article at its source:

Robot Arm with LEGO Robotics Materials

 Another good piece on Making, Designing, Programming, and Understanding LEGO Robots from Mr. Hino...

Best Robots for Kids' Games, Fun and Learning?

Here's a very worthwhile piece from Fractus Learning... I think, though, that the LEGO Materials offer the most comprehensive and expansive opportunities for Student Robotics-based learning. Still, there is some very good coverage here of others that offer much value and possibility for students to learn through robots!


"The Top 10 Best Robots for Kids: Games, Fun and Learning...

LEGO Robots to Learn Math

Looks like a good one... 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Robot Made Pizza - Is it Good?

"Can you taste the difference between a pizza made by a robot and a pizza made by a human?

At Zume Pizza, co-founder Julia Collins doesn't think so. Which is exactly why the Mountain View, California, company has decided to outsource part of the pizza-making process to general-purpose robots.
When a customer places an order through the website or the app, a human spreads the dough onto a conveyor belt. Robots squirt tomato sauce and spread it across the base before it reaches the next human, who covers it in toppings.

A six-axis ABB robot -- typically used for pallet-stacking operations in factories -- picks up the pizza and places it into the 800-degree oven.

Cameras and optical sensors track progress along the way so the robots know thickness, size and rate of travel as the pizza goes down the line. At maximum capacity, the system can produce up to 5,000 pizzas each day, though they're not quite there yet.

But the automation gets more interesting when pizzas are out for delivery in the specially designed truck..."

Read the full article at its source:

Student Robotics Learning Opportunity: Honda Robotics Contest

This Wonderful opportunity turned up in my
In Box this morning (
Education World Newsletter)

Your Students or Club Can Win A Visit From Honda’s ASIMO!
For the first time, Honda is taking its philosophy of using the Power of Dreams to the classrooms with the Honda Robotics Contest. Students, clubs or other organizations can win a visit from Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO by demonstrating your team’s vision of how robotics will affect the world by 2066. Video, photo and essay submissions are all encouraged. Organizations can submit up to three (3) entries.

Click HERE for contest rules and entry submission information. The entry deadline is January 10, 2017.

The U.S. is in danger of losing the international robot race - More Robotics Education is Needed... NOW!

We have to step up our game... increase, dramatically, the role that Student Robotics plays in the educational experience given to all students!

Mark Gura

Important article from

"Robotics experts tell Congress the U.S. is in danger of losing the international robot race

It’s time to invest. Big time.

Artificial intelligence is already everywhere. Robots are performing surgeries, courts use AI to help determine sentencing and bots trade on the stock market all day.
Last week, 150 academics and industry experts published the U.S. Roadmap for Robotics — just ahead of the presidential election — to help guide Congress as it moves to figure out how to allocate federal funds to encourage innovation, keep humans safe and, importantly, make sure America remains a global leader.
The first Roadmap for Robotics report, published in 2009, inspired the Obama administration to launch the National Robotics Initiative in 2011, a program that allocated $70 million to advancing robotics research in the United States.
The 2016 report is a 100-page tome packed with specific, technical recommendations that the contributors believe will be important for Congress to fund and support as robotics starts to take center stage across U.S. industries.
Here are a few of the recommendations:
  • For robotics systems to expand in manufacturing industries, roboticists need to develop interfaces that can be used by human workers with little to no training.
  • Researchers should build robots that match human mobility to “negotiate stairs, elevators, doorways, curbs, broken concrete, cluttered environments and go where people go” in order to extend automation beyond warehouse settings.
  • Surgical robots should eventually be able to “estimate user’s intent, rather than simply executing the user’s commands that may be subject to human imperfections.”
  • In 15 years, the roadmap suggests that autonomous driving “will be indistinguishable from humans except that robot drivers will be safer and more predictable than a human driver with less than one year’s driving experience.”

  • Highlight Robotics in Education.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Canadian Kids Learn Math through Creating and Programming Robots!

Good piece from the Calgary Sun...

"CJA using robots to encourage STEM education among students with Robotics Centre of Excellence

CJA Robotics Centre for Excellence
CJA students program their robots and send them on missions as part of math class in the school’s new Robotics Centre for Excellence. 
It isn't often that you see any young student get excited when it's time for math class.
But at the Calgary Jewish Academy (CJA), students aren’t just excited for math — they’re excelling at it.
For all those teachers pulling their hair and parents throttling tutors, the secret is simple: robots.

"It’s awesome," Grade 5 CJA student Soly Spivak said as he watched his Lego robot weave its way around the classroom.

"We program it, and I can make it move from here to here. It’s easy."

But what do robots have to do with math?
CJA science teacher Jeff Warner was one of the visionaries behind the Robotics Centre of Excellence, a brand new program that incorporates STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) into the school's daily curriculum.

Starting as early as Kindergarten, students are getting hands-on experience building robots, and more importantly, learning how to code them.

"The idea is to engage kids in learning specifically about robotics with a focus on programming," Warner said. "Coding is very much a growing trend in education — it’s a skill of the future."

When we hear the word coding, our minds often jump to savants or Hollywood hackers. But Warner said programming is a lot simpler than it’s made out to be.

"Programming is actually a ton of fun," he said. "And it’s really good for the brain because it’s just the pure distillation of logical problem solving."

Now with education sets like Lego Mindstorm and WeDo, it’s possible for kids as young as five to start understanding traditionally tougher subjects like math through basic computer programming...

"One of our goals with math is to make it practical," Warner said. "I give the students a robot and a mission, and they literally can’t solve the problem unless they work out certain numbers."..

Read the full article at its source: 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Student Robotics for Girls!

Great article from EDUTOPIA... 

Girls and Robotics

Right now in education, it seems like everyone is talking about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Once again, our government has had a knee-jerk reaction to the success that other countries are having on international science and math tests. For many robotics coaches, this is all a bit "ho-hum." For decades, teams of students have been applying their knowledge of math, physics, electronics and computers to build machines that complete specific tasks and challenges. These teams have been working hand in hand with professional engineers as well as their teacher-coach, and they have been turning these experiences into internships at big-name companies and eventually into full-time careers.

I attended a FIRST Robotics League competition here in Philadelphia last year to see the teams compete and get a backstage look at the world of robotics. My friend Dave Zirkle and his team were participating in the competition. I stood by watching the team make some final tests and discussing strategy while they waited their turn to compete. There was one glaring element lacking at what was an action-packed and fascinating afternoon: girls. Aside from the one all-girl robotics team I saw, very few girls were present.

A Robotics Club is Born

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to teach a summer course on robotics using LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits. I had never taught robotics before, and for the most part I was learning with the kids, but I fell in love with this particular STEM practice. The hands-on experience of building, the time put into troubleshooting a program, the excitement when the robot you built completes a challenge -- it was hours of fun. When I returned to my school in the fall, I knew I wanted to run a robotics club. I knew I wanted it to be only for girls. I knew it would cost a lot of money. However, after some fundraising, I was able to purchase two LEGO Mindstorms starter kits. I had four girls building, testing, troubleshooting and programming. Sometimes we had to review math concepts when deciding how many rotations our robot's wheels needed to make. Sometimes we needed to explore value ranges for our sensors and actually apply the concepts of greater than and less than, seeing our results in the actions our robot took (or didn't).

I took some of my girls to the robot expo so they could see the next level of robotics, should they want to continue in high school. They had a blast.

One interesting fact I learned from talking to students at the competition is that robotics team members have lots of different roles. Just like any team, each person brings a different expertise to the table. Some of the girls were builders and programmers, but some did more work in marketing and planning the team's fundraising strategy or in project management. These teams are part of a national competition, and there are strict deadlines.

What I found to be the most amazing about the conversations I had with students was that many of them were already working at engineering firms and companies (usually the one that sponsored their team) or, if they were high school seniors, the company was helping pay some of their college tuition with the promise of a job when they graduated.."

Read the full article at its source:

Saturday, November 5, 2016

SBrick Plus: a New and Impressive Item to Add to LEGO Robotics

SBrick Plus is something I will definitely be taking a close and seriously look at...


SBrick Plus is a small building block to use in your LEGO models, allowing for remote control through Bluetooth or over the internet from any digital device. You can use our free app to program and control the SBrick Plus from your mobile phone, PC, tablet or game console. Equip children with more than just simple digital literacy. They will quickly learn and become highly skilled at programming and robotics, some of the most important fields today and the decades ahead. 

A key feature of SBrick Plus that it is compatible with Lego’s WeDo 1.0 sensors, and can be programmed using a number of languages. A separate adapter allows it to be connected to Mindstorms NTX and EV3 sensors. SBrick Plus is the first gadget to support Swift Playground, Apple’s programming language designed specifically with educational tools in mind.
The SBrick Plus is the perfect tool to raise young people’s interest in programming and robotics– whether at home or at school. SBrick has developed lessons and building plans to help children, with or without adult help, learn the basics of programming, develop and experience their creative power and enjoy seeing their designs come to life.

Robot learns to play with Lego!

Ironic and fascinating... here we see a robot who uses LEGO! Good article from New Scientist...

"Robot learns to play with Lego by watching human teachers

DAVID VOGT’S son loves Lego. As they played together one day, the robotics professor had an idea: could he teach a robot to put the blocks together?

“We thought it would be funny to make a robot that could do the same thing I am doing with my son,” says Vogt, who is at the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Germany.

So Vogt and his colleagues brought an industrial robot arm to the lab. Like a child playing for the first time, the robot – equipped with a Kinect depth camera – observed two experienced humans wearing motion tracking tags as they built a Lego rocket. After just one session, the robot was able to partner with a human to build the rocket. It could also cope with some blocks not being exactly where it expected to find them.
The project, to be presented next month at the International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Cancun, Mexico, is one of several recent examples of teaching robots through human demonstration.

Humans learn how to do lots of things by watching someone else, but programming a new skill into robots is difficult, says Aude Billard at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. We know intuitively how to do certain tasks, but struggle to express that knowledge as programming.

Instead, engineers have found ways to show robots what to do, rather than tell them. Some remotely control the robot through its first few tries, getting a sense of its experience using the buzz of haptic feedback. And last year, a robot at the University of Maryland started learning to cook by watching YouTube videos of people in the kitchen.

“A good teacher will understand that the robot has different ways of perceiving the world“
In work published earlier this month, researchers at Google took a hands-on approach, teaching a robot how to open a door by physically guiding it through each step. Later the robot tried on its own, starting with a similar door. It was then able to apply what it had learned to open doors even when their orientation was different to what it had encountered before..."

Read the full article at its source:


Thursday, November 3, 2016

An adorable robot to teach kids how to code

Here's an interesting piece from QUARTZ

"An adorable toy robot is teaching kids how to code

 He can walk, do a funky dance, and even play soccer. Developed by the British robotics company Robotical, Marty the robot is supposed to be simple enough for children to program. Kids can write the software that powers Marty using Scratch, a graphic programming language that lets them drag and drop commands to build the robot’s movements. By using fewer motors in Marty’s legs than in other two-legged robots, the company was able to lower production costs and make Marty easier to program. Marty’s creator, Alexander Enoch, says he hopes the robot will be an affordable classroom tool that get kids excited about programming and engineering. The company plans to sell the robot in 2017 for around $120..."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

BiBli - Social Robotics for Students

This showed up in the old In Box this morning... I love the spirit of this!