Around this time of year when I introduce animation in PowerPoint, I try to find something topical to animate.
So I’ve got my 4th graders to think about ‘Man and Machine‘ -specifically how a human could evolve into a humanoid. We use the custom animation tool to draw a path to make the human glide across the screen to turn into a robot.
To preface it, I showed them a clip of Asimo, the Honda humanoid project. Asimo is the acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It is a 4-foot 3-inch character that can run, climb steps, and play a bit of football (soccer). Even those who aren’t into robotics get instantly engaged.
I asked the class what they thought of man and machine after watching this; some thought it was a bit weird and creepy, but pretty cool.
Once the unit is completed, I figure this will be a good way to re-introduce Coding for the Hour of Code project. How do they build a set of instructions to make an inanimate object move? Coding and animation have a lot in common!
The Dragon capsule delivered several technologies and experiments (6,4000 pounds of it) to the International Space Station. But it also delivered ice cream to the astronauts on board. So what’s a few scoops, for those folks who travel at 17,000 miles an hour for several months!
Also, in a geeky twist, it is also delivering another flavor, so to speak: ‘ISS-CREAM‘ – the acronym for ISS Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass. It is a balloon-borne instrument that “measures the charges of cosmic rays ranging from hydrogen up through iron nuclei, over a broad energy range.” Clear as mud. (a balloon carrying ISS-CREAM) But very cool, huh?
As for the docking, as I mentioned in a previous post about the robotic arm and the maneuver, it is pretty cool! Humans need robots – and some ice cream now and then.
This morning my nephews, Nikhil and Shenal, surprised me with a a video of a robotic device they built from scratch.
You’ve probably seen STEM projects that involve making bots or mechanical arms using batteries and sensors. This whatchamacallit does not require electronics. Just cardboard, pins, and syringes.
As a teacher, there are three things I love about this project:
- They don’t read off a script!
- The commentary is a conversation, building drama (including a mini count down) as the brothers wrestle with the device
- Simple explanation of the scientific principles – about levers, the ‘power’, and traction
I like how the claw seems to have a life of its own – good choice of camera angle!
This is what the Maker Space movement encourages, to build, test, fail, redesign, and demonstrate. Their ‘lab’ is their kitchen table!
When we teach students about robotics, it’s important to give them the big picture of why robotics is important. To do that it’s best to steer clear of the cliché that ‘Robotics are replacing people.’
So don’t you love this story that humans are being given back jobs that robots are not good at? Mercedes and Toyota have begun this, which is a surprise considering Toyota set the standard for automation in its factories. Remember ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree‘ in which Thomas Freedman described how cars were being manufactured by industrial robots?
Turns out humans, though easy to lay off, are better at keeping pace with changes and problem-solving.”The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” observed the head of production at Merc. They realize that humans are better at individualization, and dealing with variations. Robots, on the other hand, while they never need a lunch break of a sick day, work appear to be unable “to keep pace with changes.”
The point is not to teach young people to design robots that will replace human input but to manage them, and work alongside them.
If you subscribe to the opposite view, that robots are replacing humans, this story proves your point. It is a robot called Eve, a ‘robotic scientist’ that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the University of Manchester.
This caught my eye this week. A smart move by the promoters behind Ariel, who found a way to get people to play a game of shooting stains (jam, ketchup, chocolate) at items of clothing. The trick was to use Facebook as the interface, and an industrial robot to do the dirty deed.
The other smart move was using a public space such as a train station (Stockholm Central Station) to carry out this live ‘experiment.’
The COOL standard is here. A short press release from the USDA announced that as of September 30th this year, all “covered commodities” involving beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable, peanut, pecan, ginseng and macadamia nut) will need to have Country of Origin Labeling.
The idea is to provide us consumers with more information, so we know exactly where the lettuce and the meat on a hamburger came from. Will this be TMI? Apparently 92 percent of consumers wanted this. Might customers adjust their consumption patterns because they would be armed with this information? I think it could lead to new trends in branding, where some smart farms could create the equivalent of an ‘Intel Inside’ signature for making certain menu items more desirable at certain restaurants.
Speaking of smart farms, farming went high tech many years ago, but this story is far out! A cow with an embedded chip, a programmable robotic arm that gets to the udder, and lasers used to test the milk. And you thought a refrigerator that sends you a text message when it senses you have run out of milk, is a crazy concept!