Institute for Personal Robots in Education Blog

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Japanese robot dances "spontaneously"

In the news items today is a story about a robot that dances:

Japanese robot dances "spontaneously" (Moldova.org) - A new Japanese robot twists and rolls to iPod tunes in an intricate dance based on complex mathematics. Technology developers convince that one day robots will move spontaneously instead of following preprogrammed motions. Equipped with Kenwood Corp. speaker systems, Tokyo-based venture ZMP Inc.'s 35-centimeter (14-inch) long Miuro robot - which looks like a white ball wedged between two halves ... [Yahoo Robot News]

Announcing the Beta Release of the IPRE Scribbler Services for Microsoft Robotics Studio

A new phase of the IPRE project is underway with the release of the Scribbler services for MSRS. Although it is only a beta release, I think it is a good foundation for what is to come. By integrating the Myro API into MSRS, IPRE has access to a wide range of new robots, including a full physics based 3D simulator.

Download at the top of this page: http://www.roboteducation.org/scribbler_msrs_readme.html

This release includes:
• A Scribbler base service that handles the Bluetooth link to the robot
• A realistic simulation entity of robot, which can, for the most part, be used interchangeably with the physical hardware

From the Spring Symposium: Robot Platforms

There is much going on here and it will be hard to post all the highlights. Those interested should contact AAAI for a copy of the Symposium papers. There are papers from all over the US (K-12, university level), and many countries (Israel, Canada, Ghana, Qatar...) represented.

I wanted to provide a quick overview of the robot platforms that were demo-ed here (again in no particular order):

1. The Surveyor Robot from Howard Gordon: This has already been reviewed here, See Doug's blog below)

2. The Parallax Scribbler: Also reviewed here (see below)

3. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT: Also reviewed here (see below)

From the AAAI Spring Symposium on Educational Robotics

This is the second day of the symposium and I thought I'd write some observations.

First, there are more than 65 people attending this symposium. AAAI had to give us the largest room available! Obviously there is a lot of interest in educational robotics. Thanks to Doug Blank and Zach Dodds for organizing a great set of presentations, discussions and demos.

Yesterday, we split up into ad hoc groups to discuss "Top 10 things NOT to do with robots in education". Here are some highlights:

1. Do NOT drop the robot. Ensure that they do not roll off the table.
2. Do NOT attempt to get into robots if you do not have sufficient financial and personnel resources. I.e. make sure you have adequate support from your institution.

Bill Gates explains Microsoft's Robotics Interests

Bill Gates stumps for robotic future - ZDNet Blogs - Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates lays out the robotic future in the cover story of January's Scientific American magazine, which has a C-3PO type robot on the cover. In the story, Gates argues that the robot industry is akin to the PC industry 30 years ago ... [MSN Robot News]

In this Scientific American cover story, Bill Gates explains some of the background to Microsoft's interests in robotics.

Surveyor SRV-1 Robot: First Impressions

In this post, I'll take a look at the SRV-1 robot from Surveyor.com. The SRV-1 Starter Kit costs $375 (additional robots are $295, and educational discounts are available). The kit comes with the robot, USB wireless connection and recharger, pictured here:

The SRV-1 is the first robot offering from Surveyor. It is tread-driven, small, and sturdy. The SRV-1 falls into a new niche in advanced robots for education and research in that it has a low-cost camera that requires no additional special hardware, except for the included USB wireless connection. In the past, if you wanted to use a camera on an autonomous robot, your choices were generally limited: you could use an onboard webcam (which required a laptop); or you needed an analog wireless connection with a special "frame capture" board.

Motivations for IPRE, and a positive article on CS from the Stanford Computer Forum

Hi, I'm the Microsoft Research program manager behind IPRE. My first post here is overdue! :-)

I'd particularly like to post here now and then on the motivations behind Microsoft's support for robotics in education, especially CS (Computer Science) education, and our partnership with leading technology-oriented academic institutions like Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College.

To kick things off, I noticed an item just got posted to Slashdot, referencing an article in the Stanford Report, dated November 6, 2006: "Computer science ‘still a good career,’ leader of job migration task force says".

Parallax Scribbler Robot: First Impressions

For $79.95 you can purchase a preassembled, ready-to-run, personal robot called, Scribbler, made by the folks at Parallax Inc. for ages 8+.

The Scribbler is a programmable robot whose dimensions are approximately 6(W) x 8(L) x 3.5(H) inches. The shipped package contains the robot (no assembly required), a 26-page Start-up Guide, software CD, and a serial cable (for downloading programs from a PC). The software runs on a PC only (Windows 200/XP). If your PC does not have a serial port, you can additionally purchase a USB-to-serial adapter ($14.95) that will enable the connection over the provided serial cable.

Exploring Programming through Robot Behaviors

As we begin to explore the use of robots in an introductory computer science course (CS1), it appears that there are at least three distinct ways of creating interesting robot behaviors.

The first is what one might call the engineered approach. Using this method, one might write a control program like the following:

for n in range(4):
    robot.forward(5)
    robot.turn(90)

One might guess that this code would go forward a distance of 5 units and turn to the left 90 degrees. This is repeated 4 times, so that the robot should return to its initial position.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT: First Impressions

Speaking of Personal Robots, LEGO made a definite first splash in this area several years ago when it released its LEGO RCX as the Mindstorms Invention System. Designed for ages 10 and up, the RCX was probably an ideal toy for a kid. Other than the RCX brick itself, most other parts (sensors, motors) were standard LEGO pieces that one even had in their own other LEGO kits. The genius of RCX was that it integrated well with existing LEGO pieces and more or less looked the same as any other LEGO piece. The same wire connectors worked for connecting sensors and motors to the RCX. A graphical 'programming language' was used to design control programs. Several computer science departments turned to RCX (probably the best reverse engineered commercial electronic artifact of its times) and designed several innovative courses, labs, and programming languages (from C, NQC, LISP, JAVA, and even ADA!).

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