The Arts & Bots program, originally known as Robot Diaries, was launched with the help of the Heinz Endowments to explore ways to foster interest in technology at the middle school level, particularly among girls. "Studies have shown that when they enter middle school, boys and girls are equally interested in robots," Nourbakhsh said. "But three years later, it's very different, with interest down dramatically among girls. So you have to ask: What's happening in middle school?"
Terry Richards, who teaches high school human anatomy and physiology at the Ellis School in Pittsburgh, had her students use the kit to build models of the human arm and its musculature. "A lot of the girls said it helped them see where muscles attached," Richards said in the release. "They really had to think about where the muscles could attach on their models." In the process, they learned how to install servos to move the elbow and wrist, wire them to the Hummingbird control board, and write programs to control the movement. "Even in high school, students aren't usually introduced to this technology unless they are on the robotics team."
Tom Lauwers, who earned his doctorate in robotics in Nourbakhsh's lab and now heads BirdBrain Technologies, a CMU spinoff, said the Hummingbird nicely ties into the increasingly popular "maker movement" approach to technology. As with other makers, students using the Hummingbird get hooked on the idea of using technology to make all sorts of things, he said.
The kit is now available for $199 through BirdBrain Technologies. Discounts are available for orders of four kits or more, and kit components can be ordered a la carte, according to the Hummingbird Website.
Love this program and would be grateful to see more of these kinds of initiatives in schools. Does anyone else see a resemblance between the crafty man robot in the image and our president or is it just me??
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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