Playing with robots might not be that new. The innovative aspect is the possibility for kids to build and program their robots. What is the educational value of robot programming? Let's consider a group of kids and adults engaged in building cybernetic constructions by assembling wheels, sensors, engines, etc, and using a special programmable component.
The group discusses behaviours of robots such as movements, reaction to obstacles, light and temperature variations, etc..). By doing so it elaborates theories through the comparison of different hypotheses and their field testing on robots. In this way the interconnection between an engineering-constructive attitude and one of the psychological type devoted to the exploration of "mental mechanisms" of artificial creatures takes place. The key element is the materiality of robots which makes ideas real and operative and is the motor of the conceptual construction process. This allows learning become the result of an active commitment of the individual and of their relation with the group.
ITD activity concerns models and prototypes of cybernetic constructions for infant school and lower secondary education.
In this context a cibernetico commercial kit for grown up kids was redesigned to be used by younger kids.
The investigation focused on which form, functions and interface of hardware and learning environment should be reconsidered. The proposed solutions tended to enhance the robot's functions, to reduce mechanical complexity or artifacts and, above all, to redefine the programming environment. Results showed that there are no cognitive obstacles to the programming of cyber- constructions by kids if a well defined context with specific tools to support dialogue and metacognitive reflection is made available.
Lower secondary school
The prospects here concerned education to scientific investigation which requires the shifting from trasmission of knowledge to its (re)building. The use of robotic kits allows the creation of conditions suitable for experimental lab activities featuring a correct balance between invention and reconstruction of knowledge. Educational proposals were developed on various themes: technical knowlege concerning the construction of scientific tools, some aspects of programming having a high conceptual relevance though often dealt with by specialists(concurrent programming and event-driven programming); some particularly important scientific concepts (feedback, emerging behaviour...)
Images of the realised prototypes are still classified due to an agreement with our partner LEGO enterprise.
"The Robots Lab" at the Leanardo Da Vinci Museum (2005)
The Robots Lab is one of the new interactive laboratory designed by ITD and operatig at the Leanardo Da Vinci Museum in Milan. Since 2005, the Lab has an exceptional number of visitors, both students and families.
"The Robots Lab"(video)