Helps teach and inspire anyone who didn’t think they wanted to make robots or learn about programming
Though it turns out the kit–which shows that engineering can be a creative and artistic endeavor–helps teach and inspire anyone who didn’t think they wanted to make robots or learn about programming.
Want to make a robot of cardboard wrapped in tin foil that can twirl, flash lights and even impersonate the Star Wars robot, R2D2? Or a dragon of paper and popsicle sticks that flaps its wings and hisses? How about building a robotic arm with muscles fashioned from pantyhose? That’s what middle and high-schools students have been doing, using a new educational robotics kit. Made by two-year-old startup, BirdBrain Technologies, in Pittsburgh, the kit is called Hummingbird and was developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. BirdBrain Technologies is a Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) spin-off.
Most educational robotic kits focus on building robots, but Hummingbird treats robotics as one element combined with craft materials and text to communicate thoughts, feelings, or ideas. Students neither have to know how to solder nor program. The kit ($199) consists of a customized control board, and lights, sensors and motors that can be connected to the controller by inserting the leads of parts into plastic clamps on the board. They program their creations on a computer by dragging and dropping icons, so they don’t have to learn computer languages. Teachers whose students have experimented with the kit say it fosters interest in technology among students ages 11 and up.
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