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Category Archives: Technology

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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Could they be social minus the media? Dire mental health finding

If you have teenagers, you know the dilemma. How do we get them to make connections without a device?

A subset of this includes:

  • How do we keep the phone away from the dinner table?
  • At what time should all devices be off in the home?
  • Is there a good reason to allow my daughter to use Snapchat? Or Instagram?*

As someone who once conducted workshops on how to adopt social media, I feel it is my responsibility to now warn young people about the unintended consequences of trying to be ‘social’ via a screen. We don’t need research to tell us that a generation could be experiencing serious issues very soon if we thrust smart phones into their hands, and hope for the best.

This research just in: Mental health and Instagram. 

Conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, it has young people using words like ‘fake,’ ‘intimidating,’ and ‘superficial’ to describe platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The report explains how:

  • Young people say that 4 of the 5 social media channels make their feelings of anxiety worse!
  • A phenomenon called ‘Facebook Depression‘ which involves being ‘constantly contactable’ and having unrealistic expectations of reality. I had never heard of such a phenomenon, though suspected this existed.
  • FoMo (Fear of missing out) is also a thing, and is another cause of distress, something adults are just getting to know about.
  • There are indeed opportunities, despite the dire warning this report sends out.

Not many young people realize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. 

 

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Aaron’s take on “How to humanize digital marketplaces.”

As many of you know, my son, Aaron often writes on matters pertaining to markets, the economy, and alternative currencies.

I found this topic on ‘humanizing digital marketplaces‘ very relevant to lifestyles we now take for granted, ‘shopping’ for airfares, taxis, books, and even knowledge –all of it online. The article is at Medium.com. If you read it (it is a long read!) I’d be interested to know what you think. He will too.

How to Humanize Digital Marketplaces

 

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Spinners – Stress reduction fad or potential STEM tool?

Gadgets fascinate me, especially those that have levers, sensors or even gyros. So the Spinner, a ‘momentum toy’ also known as a ‘fidget toy‘ looks promising.

If not for the fad factor.

Every kid finds it irresistible, no different from how yoyos, or Rubik’s cubes were hard to put away. But the Spinner is also seriously hyped, being claimed to solve many problems. Stress, ADD, and whatever seems to fit. But we better make a distinction between a sensory aid and a gadget that could be used just to show off. Not to mention it becoming a distraction device, rather than solving an ‘attention’ problem.

Having said that, I could envisage how with a few add-ons and variations of the Spinner design, it might be used in a STEM lesson. I’ve seen at least one teacher use the rotations and spin time as variables for math challenges. My colleague and I just discussed how this could become part of a robotics-related lesson, being a mechanical device, after all. No apps required, please!

The field is wide open. Let’s hope we don’t get steamrolled by the fad, and it doesn’t evaporate like…. last Summer’s Pokemon Go.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Hype, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Build a ‘Steady-hand Game’ for under $3

Here’s the device I constructed from mostly scrap material. It’s been called the ‘steady-hand game.’ The goal in this challenge is for the player to not to complete the circuit!

If any part of the metal wand touches the wire, it completes the circuit, which is connected to a rudimentary ‘fan’. Took me about 45 minutes to assemble the contraption.

I admit, the challenge was a tad too difficult. I could have made it easier, but it tends to be more fun if it triggers the fan. Perhaps for a younger group I could have straightened the wire, or bent back the metal ‘wings’.

Material: wood, scrap wire, duct tape, old plastic container, 9-volt battery, copper wire.

  • The Wand: Metal egg beater from the Dollar Store. Bend back some of the loops to create wing-like protrusions.
  • Fan: Made from an old CD, with a piece of Duct tape to cover the center hole. Pierce the tape with the top of the motor. Connect the positive and negative terminals of the motor to the battery
  • The motor. Available at any hobby store, Radio Shack, or online
  • Battery: Ideally a 9-volt battery. D-size battery will also work fine.

Expand the idea! While this is a great way to incorporate it into a unit about electricity and circuits, you could get some students to design an elaborate set up: More complex coils of wire, different size wands, and different circuits that set off off a bell, a light bulb, a buzzer, and a fan, depending on which circuit the wand touches.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, STEM, Technology

 

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