Some might say the world is becoming more automated by the day. Robots and artificial intelligence permeate our everyday lives, from doing the dangerous jobs that humans previously performed in manufacturing to asking Apple’s Siri where the nearest coffee shop is. Engineers and educators are starting to see the advantages of teaching young students, from elementary students to high school seniors, the basics of building and operating robots. And they’re doing it in novel ways that are meant to cut costs without cutting learning possibilities.
Below the cut, read about two companies started by engineering students who are bringing robotics to classrooms around the country.
U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been taking to the skies since the Air Force first developed them in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen six U.S. sites for testing and researching unmanned aircraft, and Congress hopes that by 2015, they will be integrated into the U.S. airspace. According to the New York Times, privately-owned drones the size of tiny helicopters could be used to inspect broken power lines, and styrofoam planes could fly over fields to look for agriculture pests and help determine better farming practices.
But the unmanned aircraft industry is relatively young compared to that of manned airplanes and helicopters, says L. D. Chen, director of engineering and computing sciences at Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi. TAMU-CC is one of the FAA’s six chosen sites, and will work with the administration to research the best ways to control a drone’s guidance, control, and recovery systems.
A recent NPR report on obesity noted a Marquette University electrical engineering professor’s project on toy-like robots that are built and programmed to help get young Americans active and lose weight. According to the report, the robot can talk to children to assess their health needs, understand their commands, demonstrate exercises, and actually exercise with them.
While personal trainers can be expensive, Professor Andrew Williams’s aim is a low-cost robot that can substitute as a health coach in classrooms and even homes. In the above video, WISN TV in Milwaukee shows the robot leading students through push-up and dance exercises.
NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) have announced eight university teams that will compete in the RASC-AL Exploration Robo-Ops Competition in summer 2014. Called Robo-Ops for short, the contest invites undergraduate and graduate students to work in multi-disciplinary teams on a planetary rover prototype. Teams must show that the robot can perform a series of field tests at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Rock Yard in Houston, Texas, in June.
With National Science Foundation funding, Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists have developed a robot that could have a place in office buildings, hospitals, and tourist attractions, providing quick help for busy people.