Remember building those simple wooden paddle boats powered by rubber bands as a kid? We do, and we remember what a blast it was to construct, test, and then race them against our friends.
The latest issue of ROBOT Magazine, on newsstands within the next week or sooner, features a major review of the ROBOTIS-MINI humanoid robot kit, including all the specifications, in’s and out’s, close up photos, and the background on why this robot kit is a great choice for anyone that wants to get involved with humanoids or wants to stimulate young learners about STEM.(more…)
When we first heard about OZOBOT, a little over a year ago, all the buzz was about this new robot game piece that would make a dramatic difference in the gaming world. Then, very shortly thereafter, all the press and promotion switched to OZOBOT being a new and innovative way for young learners to learn the basics of programming/coding.
After spending a few days getting to know OZOBOT, our conclusion is that OZOBOT is both, and it is neither. It occupies a specific niche, almost an island, where it delivers significant value and can be highly recommended. Beyond that niche, it really isn’t clear, at least not yet, how far OZOBOT can be expanded or adopted to provide more of an extended learning experience.
OZOBOT’s design is quite innovative. It’s tiny, yet packs a lot of technology inside a body that’s just a little bigger than our thumb. In a nutshell, which is a strangely apt reference since the relative size is the same, OZOBOT is a line follower robot with two small drive wheels and a sensor array on the bottom. As it follows line paths, different color segments tell it to change behavior. The overall concept is very simple and straight forward. Students create paths with different colored segments, either with marking pens or by using their fingers to draw the lines and segments on an iPad or Android tablet. This enables them to quickly grasp the basic concept of programming and coding.
OZOBOT also provides visual feedback. For example, when it passes over a blue colored line segment, one of the robots LEDs glows blue. Students can change the robots mode using a button located on one side of the body.
All line follower robots require some sensor calibration since the operating environments and lighting can vary greatly. For OZOBOT, you just use the mode button to put the robot into calibration mode, a white LED will flash indicating it’s ready to be calibrated, then you place it on the provided calibration card. After a few seconds the LED flashes green, and you’re good to go.
In addition to preprinted line paths and some examples students can use to create their own, the company also supports several different smartphone/tablet applications for both iOS and ANDROID.
One application simulates the line creation process on screen. Actually, we prefer using this app over hand drawing lines since during our tests we were able to achieve much more consistent results that way. However, very young students may prefer the hand drawing method and may find it much more engaging and fun. A second application combines music and rhythm with the robots motions - kind of like a robot disco performance. It’s a fun app, especially for demonstrating the robot, but might get old in a hurry.
OZOBOT’s price is relatively low, typically less than USD$50 for one robot or under USD$100 for the special dual set package. Keep in mind that the robot is non-repairable, at least for anyone with less know-how and skill than an Ultra-Geek, and the built-in battery can’t be replaced. Once the robot breaks, or the battery wears out, you’ll have a cute little paperweight - which isn’t all bad.
So, where does OZOBOT fit in the larger scheme of things? It doesn’t appear to have gained traction as a robot game piece, at least we weren’t able to locate any commercial games that have adopted the technology.
On the other hand, many educators have incorporated the robot into their entry level programs. It seems like a natural fit to kickstart students into the core elements of programming and robotics. What isn’t clear is what the next natural learning step for the students should be. How do they transfer the learning and expand on it? At this point that seems to be a decision for each individual teacher or educator.
More and more universities are offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) where anyone, anywhere in the world, can benefit from exactly the same courseware and resources as local students. Of course, they have to have relatively high speed internet access. Typically these courses are free, though some require a minimal charge.
For example, Queensland University of Technology in Australia will be offering two information rich courses in robotics early in 2015. Introduction to Robotics covers the world of robots along with the necessary underlying mathematics and algorithms, while Robotic Vision explores computer vision in robot designs and applications. Instructor for both courses will be Professor Peter Corke.
I just finished reading (exploring) Eduardo Galvani’s latest iBook, The Yellow Cab of the Universe: Mr. Albert’s Brain, and I have to say that it’s an absolutely compelling purchase/read for anyone with even the slightest interest in Physics. Here’s what I wrote as a 5-Star review on the iBook Store:
Brings physics to life and makes it engaging
Physics springs from real life - it’s the sum total of our struggle as human beings to make sense of the physical world around us and to solve real world problems. If you what to build a bridge, design a car, aim a cannon, fly a plane, or do almost anything physical, you need to understand the fundamentals of physics.
Unfortunately all too many textbooks and classes teach physics in a dry, pedantic way that sometimes suffocates students interest in one of the worlds most important topics of study.
Eduardo Galvani not only puts the ‘life’ back into physics, he makes it totally engaging and inspirint. This iBook not only teaches physics, it encourages the reader to interact and experiment with the principles cover in each section.
Through the use of color, dynamic images, sound, motion, physical interaction, interactive quizzes, and videos, Galvani brings the full power of the iBook format to bear and creates a learning experience that is difficult to put down.
I highly recommend this iBook to anyone with an interest in physics, no matter what your age, gender, nationality, or experience level.
If you’re a physics fan but are still a bit skeptical, then download the sample chapter from the iBook Store. And, if you don’t already have an iPad or Mac computer handy - beg, borrow, or steal one so that you can experience this iBook. It’s that good.
The new ROBOTIS PLAY600 PETs robot kit includes a cute bird that only took a few minutes to assemble, but provided lots of fun and excitement for our two dogs.
The kit allows very young learners to get involved in building simple robots even before they are old enough to start learning how to program. ROBOTIS expects to release the kit for sale in February.
Total assembly time for this robot was about 10 minutes. The kit includes all the parts and plans for two other, slightly more complex, animal type robots that move.
Makerbot and America Makes jointly announced “Makerbot Academy”, a new initiative to support and strengthen American schools and STEM education. A big part of the initiative centres around giving students access to technology to foster interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm in STEM.
The new Makerbot Academy, with support from donors, plans to place thousands of 3D printers in schools across the nation. Here’s the opening text of the announcement:
We’re proud to announce MakerBot Academy, an educational mission to put a MakerBot® Desktop 3D Printer in every school in the United States of America.
The first MakerBot Academy initiative includes 3D printing bundles for classrooms, an awesome Thingiverse Challenge, and generous support from individuals and organizations.
What You Can Do
1. Get the word out. Tell the teachers you know to register at DonorsChoose.org.
2. Support a school. Contribute to the effort by choosing a teacher; help get them set for the Next Industrial Revolution.
3. Participate in the Thingiverse Challenge. Develop models that teachers can use to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Responding to a Presidential Call to Action
At this year’s State Of The Union address, President Obama announced a new initiative to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. He affirmed, “3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.”
We’re inspired by the President’s commitment to keep America at the forefront of the Next Industrial Revolution and we’re eager to do our part to educate the next generation of innovative makers who will keep our economy strong.
Let’s Get MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers into American Schools
Together with America Makes, and by leveraging the crowdfunding power of DonorsChoose.org, we’re launching our first MakerBot Academy initiative: Get thousands of MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printers into K-12 public school classrooms across the country — by December 31, 2013!
The new DARwin Mini humanoid robot from Robotis is about to rock the robot community worldwide, and give some major heartburn to competitors.
Featuring outstanding price/performance, this new robot will make it possible for a whole new sector of users to get actively involved in humanoid robotics whether it's at the educational, hobby, research, or professional use.
During IREX 2011, I had the opportunity to check out the Omni-Crawler robot developed at Osaka University. Conceptually, it's pretty amazing. It can 'turn on a dime', or more correctly, it doesn't need to turn at all. The unique Omni-Ball drive enables it to move in any direction in its plane of operation, and can make those moves almost instantaneously.
The Omni-Crawler approach will definitely be a significant benefit in some applications that can be improved by it's capabilities, and some applications that were previously impossible. At the same time, the overall complexity of the design and implementation, at least in the research lab prototype stage, raises some questions about how effectively it could be commercialized. The robot has tremendous potential, if it can be production engineered to become a reliable, cost effective subsystem.(more…)