A robot that helps teach computer programming is a rising star in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classes in Kentucky. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte meets the French-made robot and its handlers from the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education in Murray State's College of Education and Human Services.
How Nao Works
NAO, by Aldebaran Robotics, challenges students and teachers to use their creativity and critical thinking skills in the classroom, applied through the medium of a 58-cm tall humanoid robot. Through NAO, students get hands-on experience in the basics of computer programming, engineering and robotics from elementary drag-and-drop tools to detailed C++ and Python coding. Because of this range, students of all ages and interest levels can engage with Nao and as interest and experience increases, so too can comprehension of advanced coding.
Through drag-and-drop programming, pictures and symbols can be brought onto the computer screen that re-program what the robot does. It may tell the robot to walk (programming in the distance), approach a wall, stop, then turn around and go to the next step in its programming language.
Through C++ and Python, a student can go into detailed programming. These are programming tools that one can use by going into each line of program code and enter specific, detailed commands to the degree and distance in centimeters (like standing at a specific angle with its arm raised to a certain degree, with fingers extended just so). Music and voices can also be programmed into the robot.
How Your School Can Use NAO
Murray State's Kentucky Academy of Technology Education has been reaching out to schools across the Commonwealth, and currently have this fall (Bullitt and Oldham Counties) and spring (Trigg and Logan Counties) reserved. When sharing between counties, kids will initially learn the programming on a computer screen, with a digital robot who looks and behaves exactly as the physical robot does. This gives students experience with the programming language so that they can test their work when the robot is in the classroom.
"The program is built so that as you are programming the robot, you can literally see on the computer screen exactly what the robot is going to do. It's a rendering of this exact robot on the screen. So when you tell it to move, to stand up, you literally see all the different things it takes for that robot to stand up."
The Trial Run
This is the second year the NAO robot is utilized in the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education program. A middle school in Bullitt County was the first to conduct a trial run. Students were selected to already had an interest in computer programming to try the software and the robot. They took their learning experience to a nearby elementary school for a demonstration. Because of the interest in robots, students who were not necessarily leaders in the classroom stepped forward and became leaders in the project. Feedback shows that 80% of the kids in the trial had gone on to take another programming class in STEM.
Murray State NAO Demonstration for WKMS:
An Emerging World of Robotics
Part of the strategic plan is that this type of introductory programming to robotics is part of a world of various mediums, from LEGO to "Maker Culture" DIY projects to drones. This is just one example of a way to draw kids into the emerging world of robotics.
"When you look at surgeries in the hospital, and you have a lot of robotic surgeries now, this lends itself to being able to get students invested in learning the programming and learning how to do that to make it a career."
Meet Now: The New Robot of Aldebara Robotics:
Ginny Kelley is Web Resources Coordinator in the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education in Murray State's college of Education and Human Services. We also heard Dr. Robert Lyons, Chair of the Department of Educational Studies, Leadership and Counseling, and Instructional Development Specialist Dwayne Buchanan, who was programming the star of the show: Kate the NAO Robot.
For more information, call Dwayne Buchanan at 270-809-4207.