Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RoboClam! Robot Inspired by Razer Clams is a Powerful Digging Machine

"Warning: Don’t try and stick this clam in your chowder. Scientists have built a robotic clam that isn't edible but could be incredibly useful, because it easily outperforms other commercial digging devices. This RoboClam, described at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, could prove invaluable as low-energy anchors or as an environmentally safe way to lay down more intercontinental, undersea fiber-optic cables.

The Atlantic razor clam (Ensis directus) is a small, weak creature, about 4 to 8 inches in length. It has a weak squishy body that pokes, tongue-like, out of a long, narrow shell with a painfully sharp rim that looks like a closed straight razor (hence the nickname). And yet these clams can be hard to catch because of their remarkable burrowing ability – they can easily escape a hungry human digger.

The razor clam outstrips humans' mechanical diggers, too. When researchers compared the digging efficiency of the clam to commercial digging devices like anchors, it found that it was 10 times as efficient at digging as the machines on the market. This means it uses far less energy to get through such densely packed sand. But what gave the razor clam, not to put too fine a point on it, such an edge?

A team of researchers from MIT and the University of Maryland decided to find out.

“The idea was just to trust that nature has designed a good way to do this,” said lead author Kerstin Nordstrom, a soft-matter physicist at the University of Maryland.

The scientists studied the razor clam and found that it digs quickly by "fluidizing" the sand it’s digging into, making it act like a fluid rather than a solid. It does this by contracting its body and sort of sucking in, creating a vacuum that causes the sand to become unstable and start moving around. This fluid-like mix of grains and water is much easier to displace and dig through than a floor of solid, unmoving sand.

With this principle in mind, the researchers built a prototype that would fluidize the sand in the same way. Nordstrom and her colleagues used a mathematical model to check whether the RoboClam was properly fluidizing sand. They found that timing was key: start digging too quickly, and the sand wouldn’t have enough time to "get up to speed"; start digging too late, and the sand would have already started settling..."

The RoboClam worked as they predicted. Researchers are now building a larger version at MIT

Read the full article at its source:,0,2581617.story#axzz2vl9V9Wdm

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Robot Testing: Team 395: 2 Train Robotics, a high school robotics team, at work

This was forwarded to me by Gary Israel, proud coach of 2 Train Robotics. Good luck, 2 Train, here's wishing you a great season. Make us proud... AGAIN!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Meeting the autism challenge with advanced social robotics

A digression from this blog's principal theme of the evolving role of robotics in human life. Here's a fascinating glimpse into the role of robotics as an out-of-the-box learning resource....

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

First there was humankind, now there’s RoboKind. When you hear it from Fred Margolin, CEO and co-founder of RoboKind, an advanced social robotics company, you begin to understand the power of what’s possible with robots, and why some of the nation’s top experts in robotics, artificial intelligence and electrical, mechanical and software engineering are all working so passionately. They are behind the technology that produces

When you put everything together, you have a tool that is completely attuned to special education.

the amazing RoboKind facial expressions for what they believe are the most lifelike robots in the world. The robots also have humanoid bodies, and even what Fred describes as “CompuCompassion” — which he talks about in more depth in this interview. For education, the implications aren’t just fascinating. Autistic and special needs children are already benefitting with immediate results. How did Fred get involved in this line of work? “My son worked closely as an engineer with David Hanson, whose company, Hanson Robotics, pioneered the development of robots with human-like faces,” he explains. “I recognized the huge potential of these robots, but also that they needed to be scaled down in price and size before entering the consumer market.” Fred bought the patent, and as a result, his company is able to offer the most affordable humanoid robots available today. Fred is a graduate of Harvard Business School where he obtained his MBA, and he earned his B.A. at The Wharton School of Business and The University of Pennsylvania. In this discussion, he addresses what his company has developed, what happens when these tools are used in special education, and he goes into much more depth about the very human approach behind Robots4Autism.

Victor: What drives the development process of social robotics and the Robots4Autism program at RoboKind?

Fred: RoboKind has a vision of how social robots can best serve the special education, autism therapy and STEM instruction markets; a vision which drives everything we develop. Our goal is to create a long-term platform for communication, information and entertainment.
With regard to Robots4Autism, we developed each aspect of the robot to leverage the fascination with technology that engages many individuals with autism. Our development strategy, however, also encompasses the principle of attainability, so that these robots remain affordable for schools and therapy centers. Finally, we’ve gathered user feedback from autism treatment experts at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas. With their guidance, the robot became part of a team effort, expanding the role of teachers and therapists in an efficient and effective manner.

Victor: What are the benefits of incorporating social robots into autism intervention and education?
Fred: There are three major benefits. First, the robot offers a non-threatening platform to deliver the behavioral curriculum. With life-like facial expressions, the robot teaches emotions and social skills, and the child is not intimidated, as he or she might be with human interactions. In fact, one therapist reported that two children who previously refused to speak with staff began speaking to the robot within 10 minutes of interaction.
Another benefit is the ability of our CompuCompassion software to read the child’s emotions and level of attentiveness, and use this information to adjust its interaction. If the software senses distraction or disengagement, it redirects the child’s attention, promoting a more consistent degree of engagement.
The third benefit of social robots is they never get bored, allowing for higher doses of interaction. While human teachers and therapists might tire of reiterations, Robots4Autism enables perfect repetition without any fluctuations in tone. Each phrase is pronounced again and again in the same manner, without a hint of frustration or impatience, until the child is ready to move onto the next task.

Read the full article at its  source:

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Robot Land: A Robot-centric Theme Park... What a Concept!


"The ROBOT theme park: South Korea plans £380m attraction where visitors build their own droids and watch mechanical animals

  • Theme park will include a robot R&D centre and a graduate school
  • It is expected to open in 2016 and will feature rides, a water park, nightclubs, apartments and even a robotic aquarium"

"A futuristic new theme park that offers robot-themed roller coasters, a water park, exhibitions and even an aquarium with mechanical fish, is being built in South Korea.
The site in Incheon, south west of Seoul, will combine business and pleasure because as well as rides and shops selling the latest hi-tech robots, the theme park will also include a robot R&D centre as well as a kind of graduate school.
Expected to open as early as 2016, the theme park of the future will cost in the region of $625million (£380million), according to Discovery

The site will be a hybrid theme and research park so that some visitors will celebrate robots and have a fun day out, while others will be building the machines of the future in the same location..."

Read the full article at its source:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Robot Sea Turtle Will Explore Shipwrecks

"U-CAT robotic sea turtle set to explore shipwrecks"

"When was the last time you heard about a sea turtle getting stuck in a shipwreck? Never, that's when. Although that's partly because stuck turtles rarely make the news, it's also due to the fact that they're relatively small and highly maneuverable. With that in mind, the European Union-funded ARROWS project has created U-CAT – a prototype robotic sunken-ship-exploring sea turtle.

Just like a real turtle, U-CAT has four independently-driven flippers that allow it to move up and down, forward and backward, and to pivot on the spot. Propellers would let it do those same things, although they'd also churn up much more visibility-limiting silt in the process.

U-CAT is autonomous, so it doesn't require a control cable that could get snagged or tangled. It also has an onboard video camera, which records video that can later be used to visually map out the inside of the shipwreck..."

Read the full article at its source:


Everything you need to know about working with, or simply supporting, kids in  learning with Robotics. No Science or Engineering background needed!

Click on book cover for information on 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!

Check out ROBOTICS for TEACHERS Podcast

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kids Learn Math and Science at Home with Robotics Kits

Providing home-schooled kids with rich, engaging, and relevant STEM activities is a challenge. With LEGO Robotics, though, home-schooled students can be deeply involved in real-world applications of Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology - Computer programming becomes a fun and enlightening game, as well. All of this is accomplished in a practical manner. Robotics represents the best sort of  hands-on/minds-on, 21st Century Learning. For the modest cost of a LEGO Robotics kit, several students can be given wonderful, STEM Learning rich experiences.

Robotics for Kids: Great video from NASA Jet Propulsion Lab  Education

"...They do need  good solid Math and Science backgrounds... so, of course, encourage them to do their Math and Science..."

Nothing will encourage students to learn Math and Science better than offering them motivating, relevant ways to apply them. From both the kids' and the educators' points of view, robotics is the perfect application!

"... Starting as early as 3rd grade you can buy a robotics kit for your child to use at home..."

" actually develops the skills they would use in a robotics or engineering career."

LEGO Robotics is perfect for Home Schooling kids - It ensures they acquire a sophisticated understanding of STEM subject matter!

Everything you need to know about working with, or simply supporting, kids in  learning with Robotics. No Science or Engineering background needed!

Click on book cover for information on 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!

Check out ROBOTICS for TEACHERS Podcast