Monday, January 19, 2015

Outstanding Lesson in How to Teach Robot Programming AND English Language Arts!

So many teachers seem to directly jump into having kids build and program robots... and then, MAYBE, take a step or two back  later on to figure out what it all means. This blog, while it certainly offers a good deal about robots and how to build and program them, is principally directed at that "What It All Means" factor. That factor involves exploring and understanding why humans create robots and how they impact human life. Are they good or bad?.. er, are they expressions, that is, of our loftier and more intelligent impulses or are they manifestations of where we humans go wrong? While conceiving and executing the design and assembly of LEGO pieces and electronic components into a robot that will autonomously perform advanced tasks, may be emblematic of good 21st Century Education; understanding this powerful trend in human evolution (robotics) and refining one's ability to communicate about it, is perhaps even more important.

The video below, of a teacher demonstrating for students the relationship of language to computer programming through his playing the role of a robot for which they (the students) play the role of programmers is not only hilariously entertaining, but incredibly insightful. Further, not only does it show us how programming  relies on good use of language, but also how we can learn to use language better in general, through programming. To me, that's good Literacy instruction as well as sublime STEM teaching!

Here's the video (below)  and below that a link to the very wonderful article titled "How learning to code might improve writing skills" in which I first saw it. Enjoy!

By the way, this lesson is very similar to one shared with me by a fantastic Student Robotics coach form Hawaii, Dwayne Abuel, that I included in the book Getting Started with LEGO Robotics (Be the Robot: Programming Concepts). In many ways, this simple approach is ideal for illustrating how programming works and the need for precision in language, whether that be English or a coding language, when communicating for a purpose.



" How learning to code might improve writing skills 1/13/2015 5:00:00 AM

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Spare Parts" Movie: Student Robotics-fueled Learning Inspiration for Kids!

Spare Parts - another movie that will surely inspire kids to engage in STEM Learning activities...




From IMDb ... "Opening This Week - January 16"

Certificate PG-13   -   Drama
Metascore: 48/100 (9 reviews)
Four Hispanic high school students form a robotics club. With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this rag tag team goes up against the country's reigning robotics champion, MIT."                   


But this story (below) appeared in WIRED magazine. a decade ago...

"Issue 13.04 - April 2005
Subscribe to WIRED magazine and receive a FREE gift!
 

La Vida Robot 

How four underdogs from the mean streets of Phoenix took on the best from M.I.T. in the national underwater bot championship.
By Joshua DavisPage 1 of 5 
The winter rain makes a mess of West Phoenix. It turns dirt yards into mud and forms reefs of garbage in the streets. Junk food wrappers, diapers, and Spanish-language porn are swept into the gutters. On West Roosevelt Avenue, security guards, two squad cars, and a handful of cops watch teenagers file into the local high school. A sign reads: Carl Hayden Community High School: The Pride's Inside.

There certainly isn't a lot of pride on the outside. The school buildings are mostly drab, late '50s-era boxes. The front lawn is nothing but brown scrub and patches of dirt. The class photos beside the principal's office tell the story of the past four decades. In 1965, the students were nearly all white, wearing blazers, ties, and long skirts. Now the school is 92 percent Hispanic. Drooping, baggy jeans and XXXL hoodies are the norm.
The school PA system crackles, and an upbeat female voice fills the bustling linoleum-lined hallways. "Anger management class will begin in five minutes," says the voice from the administration building. "All referrals must report immediately."
Across campus, in a second-floor windowless room, four students huddle around an odd, 3-foot-tall frame constructed of PVC pipe. They have equipped it with propellers, cameras, lights, a laser, depth detectors, pumps, an underwater microphone, and an articulated pincer. At the top sits a black, waterproof briefcase containing a nest of hacked processors, minuscule fans, and LEDs. It's a cheap but astoundingly functional underwater robot capable of recording sonar pings and retrieving objects 50 feet below the surface. The four teenagers who built it are all undocumented Mexican immigrants who came to this country through tunnels or hidden in the backseats of cars. They live in sheds and rooms without electricity. But over three days last summer, these kids from the desert proved they are among the smartest young underwater engineers in the country..."

Read the full article at its source: http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/13.04/robot.html

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chappie; a Movie about Humanity Seen Through the Experience of a Robot

This movie just may turn out to be a wonderful item for student reflection on the human condition, as well as on the shape of the soon-to-be robot dominated world they will be living in!




"Coming Soon: In theaters March 6."

"After being kidnapped by two criminals during birth, Chappie becomes the adopted son in a strange and dysfunctional family. Chappie is preternaturally gifted, one of a kind, a prodigy. He also happens to be a robot."

"Every child comes into the world full of promise, and none more so than Chappie: he is gifted, special, a prodigy. Like any child, Chappie will come under the influence of his surroundings - some good, some bad - and he will rely on his heart and soul to find his way in the world and become his own man. But there's one thing that makes Chappie different from anyone else: he is a robot. The first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. His life, his story, will change the way the world looks at robots and humans forever. Written by Sony Pictures Entertainment"

The above found on: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1823672/

A Literacy Coach Reflects on Chappie...
"This work is highly connected to the Asimov I Robot series of short stories and novels (click for e-book version,   linked to Capek's R.U.R. (click for e-book version), and to Robbie,  Asimov's first story (click for e-book version). The concept of an increasingly empathetic robot is closely aligned to the Data character in the Star Trek Voyager series. Students can argue for or against the definition of an increasingly empathetic human-like robot, or for a separation between "robothood" and personhood, as words and concepts. They can  connect this fictional story to actual current marketing copy for new tech products,  like empathetic and emotionally reflective robots." The movie and its multiple perspectives can be viewed and commented and retold by students who will be developing and refining Literacy skills as they grapple with highly relevant and captivating current issues."

Dr. Rose Reissman provides Literacy support for teachers at Ditmas Middle School in Brooklyn, NYC. She is  the founder of the Writing Institute which produces student created print and e-books.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dean Kamen: Student Robotics Visionary



As a kid, he struggled in school. As an adult he has led the exciting life of an independent visionary and inventor, one that could serve well as the basis  for a wonderful Hollywood movie. He also is one of the individuals most responsible for putting Student Robotics on the map. Watch the video for some inspiration - the student robotics references start at 7 minutes and 17 seconds into the video, although a number of his other inventions that are explained earlier in this piece, while not truly robots themselves, demonstrate elements that are key to life-changing robots. The above video was broadcast first on the CBS Sunday Morning show. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Borrow a Robot for Your Classroom

This attractive offer appeared in my email inbox this morning:
http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=be3c04a8-ec44-4069-b9a2-c151420de137&c=e7222290-07b0-11e4-8468-d4ae526edd6c&ch=e8227b90-07b0-11e4-851d-d4ae526edd6c
Click on the image above
 

Here's a little background on this robot which appears to have great potential for Education:



"Robots Make Computer Science Fun Again
The long-term trend for interest in computer science at the university level is relatively bleak. As the graph at above makes apparent, interest has declined precipitously since the 2001 bursting of the dot-com bubble, leading to something of an existential crisis in the field of computer science instruction.

The latest survey on the subject, which charts 2007-08 data, showed a widely-reported up-tick in
enrollment of 8 percent, which is great for a year-on-year change, but neglects the long-term trend.

One has to wonder whether it’s the very ubiquity of computers that has made them uninteresting to students–note the spike of interest in the early 80’s, when the advent of personal computers slaked a pent-up demand for access to the instruments that everyone believed would define the future.

Robots, in contrast, are still rare in our everyday lives–plus, they’re the furthest thing from remote and abstract. So goes the reasoning behind a new effort to get them into classrooms, described earlier this month in a paper by Tom Lauwers and Illah Nourbakhsh, in which they unveiled the Finch..."

Read the full article at its source: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/419894/robots-make-computer-science-fun-again/

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: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29920654

ALSO SEE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braigo