Robots with Cameras – Scary or Fun?

A camera on a robot might sound a bit intrusive. 

But by combining the two technologies it could get students to think beyond table-top variety, and consider the real-world applications. (Think self-driving cars with that clunky sensor on top…)

So this week we took the Robot Maze Challenge to the next level – adapting a camera to see what the robot sees as it goes through the maze. 

Dr. Bill Johnson was here today and helped the students think through a new maze that could be navigated with both a color sensor and an ultrasonic sensor. We built a new maze with cardboard boxes. Notice the extra obstacles the bot has to avoid.


 
This is what the camera sees.

If you do not see the video, use this link.

Robots and Smart phones

No surprise here, as I referred to in my previous post, that robotics and mobile devices are becoming part of the larger game plan for Lego.

This is the rattlesnake, one of the models we plan to build in our classes this semester. You don’t need to wait for the release of the new EV3 brick to get the critter to ja at you or rattle. The older NXT brick will do. However, the iPhone would let you control it differently.


Video via ABC News, at the CEC show last week

Robotics in S-T-E-M sweet spot, going mainstream

With Lego Mindstorms, drag-and-drop programming reduces the geekiness involved in learning to make a robot do your bidding.

It’s especially enticing to a fourth grader, whose mind is bursting with ideas, and who wants to make her bot do more than raise an arm or beep when it encounters an obstacle. Last afternoon I sat with Bill Johnson, our mentor who comes in every week to help my robotics class with the technical aspects of Lego’s NXT brick. I was fascinated by the programming ideas at NXTprograms.com that let a 10-year old build a rattlesnake or a lawn mover.

No coincidence that Time magazine has featured Mindstorms this week! Thought it’s a thinly veiled plug for the new programmable brick, the model EV3, that will be released this summer, it talks about how Lego has been furiously adapting to a generation of digital natives who put app and bots in the same bucket –the bucket labeled ‘fun’ on one side, ‘hand-held’ on the other.

DSC_0014I keep a somewhat menacing-looking robot with a claw on my shelf in class, if only to remind my students in the computer and technology classes that computers are more than mice and keyboards; that games are more than sling-shotting an angry bird.

Games and bots are problem-solving opportunities in STEM-based curricula. In a few years –months, maybe– robotics is gonna go mainstream. It’s still a nice-to-have in many schools, but whenever I talk to engineers from Intel, Microchip and other tech firms, I see why they are keenly eyeing this sweet-spot. It’s where the puck –or rattlesnake bot –is moving.