What’s a humanoid robot doing in a STEM class?

Intrigued by robots that look less like appliances and more like humans?  Even I sometimes get a bit creeped out.

But this little guy, NAO, changed my perspective. It is a learning tool, no different from any other bot, such as a spherical bot, a drone, or an Lego NXT brick. It’s got a friendlier interface, too.

I met the company that showcased it, RobotLAB, and this week spoke to their team members about how it can help students learn programming. It’s possible to even incorporate it into some aspects of a STEAM program.

ISTE 2016 Denver (17)I found out that some schools in the San Francisco Bay area are using this NAO to support reading and writing modules. As you might imagine, the program – a software and hardware package- is a bit pricey. But they are big on year-round support for teachers. Meaning it’s not like buying some hardware and being left to figure things out, or fix something that breaks.

Fours years ago, I spoke to someone who worked on the first humanized a robot to be sent up to the International Space Station. It was clear even then that such a humanoid  ‘device’ (which could be folded into a suitcase!) was designed to work alongside a real engineer or scientist –rather than make humans redundant.