Unusual speaker challenges students

An unusual speaker addressed the students of St. Joseph School on Friday.

Quasi the Robot, part of the Carnegie Science Center’s Rockin’ Robots program, not only demonstrated robotic activities, but talked to the students about how robots work and what their programmers and builders do.

Then, after the assembly, the students experienced those jobs first-hand.

“You’re doing the same things that scientists do when they build robots and program them,” Carnegie Science Center Staff Educator Beth Colbert said.

The program included several hands-on adventure stations.

Pairs of students navigated a maze with one blindfolded student providing the movement and the other acting as the visual sensor. “They’re learning how robots interact with their environment,” Colbert said.

They performed routine tasks in usual ways – using tweezers or grippers to manipulate objects, untie shoes and zip zippers. A robotic arm, equipped with shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers, was on display and helped students see how complicated a robot must be to do some things that are taken for granted by people.

They worked with the language of robots and computers.

The students created circuits. If they had built them correctly, the power source would drive the motors and spin colored disks. If not, they could try again.

At another area, students worked with Pro-Bots – programmable cars. The students could tell the cars to complete a sequence of commands – moving set distances forward and backward and turning the requested number of degrees.

“Some of the boys have been asking, ‘Where can I buy one of these?'” volunteer Aaron Reinard said.

Parents and teachers helped the students at each station. “It’s not possible without the help of volunteers,” Colbert said.

While selling the cars was not part of the goal of the program, generating interest was.

“We love science and we want to pique an interest in science in the students,” Colbert said.