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Two weeks to Robotics Olympics! Team Sri Lanka gears up

Yesterday I spoke to Sri Lanka’s four-member team making the final tweaks to their robot, with hundreds of moving parts including 8 motors, 4 sensors, 4 servos, and some pretty fancy wheels. (This was them, 2 weeks ago.)

These are A-Level students, with the grit and passion you’d expect from college kids. They’ve mastered the programming software Blockly. They tell me they redo some parts of the design, just to be sure. In two weeks, they pack it all up and head to DC.

Today I also spoke to Joe Sestak, president of FIRST Global, and he told me how impressed he was by this team which is so committed, despite getting the robot kit a few weeks later than most other country teams.

I wish them the best!

 

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2017 in Robotics, Sri Lanka, STEM

 

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If only schools can be like this!

I just interviewed Kris Canekeratne, CEO of Virtusa, a 20,000-strong global business consulting and IT outsourcing company headquartered in Massachusetts. Among the many strands we talked about, I was fascinated by his take on learning, and how schools ought to be the ‘ignition’ for curiosity.

“Students have an innate proclivity to curiosity,” he says – no different how engineers are inherently curious, with problem-solving and design thinking as part of their skill set. If only we could design schools to be the spark plugs of knowledge! It’s time we began exposing students to Big Data, Nanotech, AI, user experience, and gamification, he says, instead of teaching them how to memorize material just to pass exams.

To this end, here’s an example of design-thinking class at a Charter School in Berkeley, California.

 
 

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Itchy fingers, clumsy tweets

Donald Trump’s (ab)use of his Twitter account will one day be looked at by historians in about the same way archeologists scrutinize cave paintings.

Back in April, when I was working on my June column for LMD, I had this sense that Trump’s clumsy (but some would say strategic) tweets would be worth focusing on.  Besides the political and international furor swiring about them, there are lessons in them tweets for anyone using social media.

And that was even before he bestowed upon us covfefe.

 

 

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Robotics update: Team Sri Lanka’s progress

Back in March, I wrote a post here about a call to schools in Sri Lanka that might be interested in participating in the first ever Robotics Olympics.

The Team has been busy working on the challenge, which involves designing and programing a robot that could solve a water problem. They comprise: Ali Anver, Akash Gnanam, Amjad Hamz, Vinidu Jayasingh, Ishini Gammanpilla

The event: An international gathering of 160 countries, hosted by FIRST Global
The Goal:  To ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world.
Dates: 14 – 18 July, 2017
The Challenge: The teams will work in ‘alliances’ as in the real world, using the robot to solve a global water crisis, specifically called ‘H2O Flow’. Which in and of itself is fascinating because unlike other tournaments, success is not based on individual skills alone. They must work as an international community. This is, after all, the Robotics Olympics!
 

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Team Sri Lanka head to International Robotics event in DC

I like to break to the news about a story that has been in the works since April. Sri Lanka was invited to participate in the first ever International Robotics event, billed as the Olympics of Robotics. It is organized by First Global, an extension of FIRST Robotics, by Dean Kamen, a serial entrepreneur The event will be from July 16 to July 18th.

The team (4 students) received the robot kit from FIRST Global in April. Given the short time frame, they have been moving mountains to build, program and test the robot. I have been in touch with the coach and the school while they have been prepping for this. More details will follow.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at the team testing some of the working parts of the robot.

 

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Nano bots – clever or creepy?

It’s not difficult to envision robots that might be among us. After all, some already do: drones and autonomous cars.

But take this to a nano scale, and it begins to sound creepy. For instance nano-bots have been envisioned to seek and destroy cancer cells in our bodies. (A nano meter is one billionths of a meter.)

On a slightly larger scale are robots that could look like insects or other critters, and work together as a swarm –a project that a friend at Arizona State University is currently working on. These bio-inspired robots could have many applications.

So the smaller they get, and the smarter they build them, we could expect to see them be among us. What this means for students is that there will be a huge demand for those who understand, investigate and have a mindset ready to work on these curious ‘machines.’

Science and STEM teachers often bring up robotics as a way to open up this topic to young students. Most of us use bots with wheels, arms and sensors. It’s time to think small!

If you like to read more on this, there’s a wonderful blog post on Invisible Machines here at Blog Science-Teaching.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in ASU, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Summer boot camp: SLRs, Robots, and a Solar Oven

Last week, students at the summer boot camp I conducted here at Li’l Sprouts Montessori got to work with different technologies. From building robots and circuits, to using cameras and a solar oven. They also used one of the oldest ‘technologies’ that tend to be overlooked – pencil and paper.

But besides motors, and learning the software (to program the robot below) students also learned about engineering design, using toothpicks to build a bridge and a tower.

They did a fair amount of writing, maintaining their journals each day. They worked on essay writing, a news story, and poetry.

On the final day I introduced them to the solar oven, and Tanu helped them bake cookies. One batch got done in just over 30 minutes!

 

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