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Miniature robots prepare children for disruptive tech

Robotics has become a more accessible subject for disadvantaged schools because of new and open-source technologies, according to a recent report.

Australia’s national school curriculum requires that students must already have experimented with simple, programmable devices like robots after three years of primary school.

By the time they reach years 7 and 8, the curriculum expects students to show that they can program a robot into recognising particular objects and to treat them differently.

But the price of robotics equipment has been a barrier that schools struggled to overcome in the past.

Such is the case for Maryborough Education Centre, located in the Central Goldfields Shire, Victoria’s most socio-economically disadvantaged local government area.

The school has recently used a grant from the Victorian Government in order to purchase several do-it-yourself robotics kits.

These kits are made entirely from components that can be bought on the open market, and not from a robot manufacturer. While step-by-step assembly instructions can be downloaded online for free.

All in all, the parts for one robot cost about A$ 100. The price can become even less if the body of the robot is constructed from cardboard or another commonly found material.

The humanoid design is the brainchild of the Deputy Head of Computer Science at La Trobe University.

The robot stands at 20 centimetres tall with a LED face and two movable arms and was specifically designed to be low cost in order to make the technology accessible to all sectors.

It really is about pulling together open-source technology.

Distributed manufacturing in the form of 3D printing, open-source technology hardware in the form of Arduino, and open-source software that the kids can get access to and program the robots with.

A 15-year-old student found the transition to robotics easy after spending 2 years experimenting with the computer hardware.

The students are not fearful of things such as artificial intelligence (AI) since they have robots and technical advancements in their lives.

A different student found robotics to be an entirely new challenge, one that tested her concentration.

It can get frustrating when things do not go the way they should, especially when screwing things together get difficult.

But the frustration was as much a part of the learning process as were the technical skills. It was an experience students would not have if the school bought pre-built robots to program.

The students needed to figure out, after they have made it, why it did not work then go back in order to do it again.

This is very similar as to how an engineer would keep refining and reiterating design until they have made a perfect bridge.

The student admitted she was scared about the potential for AI to disrupt the future, but learned that was why she needed to grasp new technologies.

The student understood that with the way the world is progressing and how fast everything is becoming automated, majority of the things will be controlled by robots by the time she reaches her parents’ age.

The miniature humanoids were an example of the sorts of disruptive technology that these students would confront in their workplaces.

Moreover, the robots are benevolent creations that can be programmed to be social, to play games and possibly be a buddy.

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