Robots Make a Difference in Science and Technology Education


Photo Credit: Nic McPhee

The question of how to help American students succeed in high tech subjects continues to be on the forefront of public discussion nationwide. One of the answers is occurring on a regular basis in communities across the country. Robotics intrigues students in a way that only a few topics can. In a recent era, space exploration held this fascination for young people and inspired a generation to take on science and engineering. Now, it appears robotics is at center stage for many students. The photo above is from a robotics competition held at the University of North Dakota. In this contest, the robots are programmed to act as sumo wrestlers. The robots push each other until one is shoved out of the ring.

Robotics classes are becoming more common in schools and robotics competitions are sweeping the nation. There are many types of competitions with acronyms such as FIRST or BEST. Take the following article in the San Antonio Express News about the local BEST competition. Students spent six weeks building robots to undertake a complex task centered around the theme of Bugs! Forrest Mims III, an amateur scientist who writes a column in the San Antonio Express News, states that robotics may be the key to improving education, especially in science and technology. You can read the full article at the link below.

The educational performance of US students has fallen dramatically in recent decades. Parents and educators can help reverse the tide by involving their students in robotics and science fairs. See for details about BEST.

Robots help teens learn about science
San Antonio Express
Sat, 29 Oct 2011 00:29:04 GMT

Robot Uses Bernoulli’s Principle to Crawl Up Walls

The drive to develop robots that can traverse any type of surface, including vertical ones, has taken many approaches.  As far as climbing walls, robots have relied on adhesives, magnets, and other types of gripper mechanisms.  Now comes air.  That’s right, air, but rapidly moving air that creates a suction force.  The robot can climb walls, even over surfaces with a gap, using this non-contact gripping method. You can see the robot in action at the video link that follows the summary.  Read the rest of the story at the link below to

Image credit: University of Canterbury. (

Robot uses supersonic air jets to climb on walls and ceilings (w/ video)
In this clip from the video below, the robot crawls up a wall using a non-contact vacuum grip, due to Bernoulli's principle.  Instead of using sticky footpads to climb on walls and ceilings,
Video: Robot's Supersonic Air Jets Allow it to Climb Just About Any Surface 

Robot uses supersonic air jets to climb on walls and ceilings (w/ video) –
Tue, 24 May 2011 21:45:43 GMT

RobotCity Workshop – Where You Can Make Your Own (Robot) Friends

Robotcity workshop-thumb-407x387-177649   

Photo Credit:  RobotCity Workshop

RobotCity Workshop may well be the only store of its kind in the country, a visionary shop with the slogan "Make your own friends."  Education has been a central part of this establishment's mission for years, as they have worked with school students to build robotics projects.  Now, they are doing the same for adults.

With a retail outlet in the front of the store, and a workshop on the premises, anyone can learn how to build a robot.  Of course, there are other projects available too. 

The shop carries all types of robots.  They range from personal robots, cleaning robots, security robots, and other categories of robots as well.  In addition, the RobotCity Workshop offers hobby kits for all ages and abilities, electronic parts, and, of course, the hardware to hold it all together.  Everything for the robot builder is available here.

This may very well be the prototype for robotics stores.  Providing not only the materials and means to built the machines, but also the educational experience to enable everyone to learn about robotics.  After all, for those of us that believe the robotics revolution is here to stay, this is the kind of place that needs to be in every city.

Make sure to go to the Chicago Now website and read their story on this groundbreaking and unique store.


Underwater Robots Work in Cold, Dark to Stop Oil Spill

In a desperate effort to stop the massive oil leak occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, robots are attempting to seal off the well spewing the crude.  These machines are controlled from the surface by operators trained to operate them in the darkness over 5,000 feet below sea level.  Robots once again are showing that they have an important role to play in areas where it is impossible for humans to operate outside of specially designed vehicles.  If the robots cannot turn off the leaks, then it could be months before the leaks are stopped.  Read the story at the link below. 

“Pilots using jetfighter-like joy sticks and computer screens to guide robots a mile underwater are crucial to BP’s efforts to stop a leaking oil well that’s gushing thousands of barrels a day in the Gulf of Mexico.”

David Wethe on May 4 at

Underwater Robots Probe ‘Inner Space’ to Plug Leaking Oil Well –

Robot Diet Coach

So, its been a while since that New Year’s Resolution about losing weight fell by the wayside.  What can you do about those excess pounds?  Just to show you that there is a robot for almost everything, here is a one designed to help you get back on track to thinness.  Autom is a robot that works to keep people on their diet.  Its main advantages are that it is a sociable robot that can give personal and positive feedback, while also keeping the dieter aware of daily calorie intake.  There is no instruction book.  Just push a button and the robot searches for a human face and begins to interact.  With the huge market for weight loss products in the United States, this just might be the dieter’s dream.  Read the entire story at the links below.

Cory Kidd with Autom, the robot he reckons will transform losing weight.

Photo: AFP

One inventor did just that and came up with Autom – a robot that will look dieters in the eye and tell them what they need to hear.
See all stories on this topic

Sydney Morning Herald

Fat chance? The robot that helps you slim
Sydney Morning Herald
Tue, 27 Apr 2010 07:47:36 GMT

Robotic Roaches for Surgery

Here is an article on an idea that definitely raises the ick factor for surgery to a new level. Like something out of Stephen King's Creepshow, robotic cockroaches are being developed which can crawl into patients' bodies and remove diseased organs by dragging them back out through the mouth.  This next step in robotic surgery is being developed by one of Britain's top doctors.

In the report titled, Robot insects to remove organs via patients' mouths, Sophie Goodchild, Health and Social Affairs Correspondent for the Standard, states "Keyhole surgery pioneer Lord Darzi is developing the "bug-bots", which are set to revolutionize scar-free surgery."

The insect bots would enter the patient's body via the mouth and be able to remove tumors or diseased organs by use of a laser.  Then the surgeons can withdraw the surgical bots and diseased parts through the mouth.  So, there would be no scarring on the patient's body.  (I am not sure about the patient's mind!!!)

Seriously, this has great promise for surgery.  Its not just the lack of scarring, it is the fact that this could reach tumors in difficult to reach areas and the patient's should recover much faster.  Of course, you would have to get use to little robotic creatures crawling around your insides.

Read the story at the link below.


By Imitating Insects, Microbots Demonstrate Hive Behaviors

Robot researchers constantly use nature as a model for new robotic developments. Here is another example of this in these microbots.

In particular, the application to robotics has to do with the idea of swarm behaviors.  Insects such as ants and termites tend to act as a unit.  Even though they are small, when they act together, they can accomplish amazing feats.  Termites build large, complex mounds with intricate tunnels.  Ants can organize large hunting parties and carry out raids against larger insects and sometimes even animals.

Swarm of robots have been developed with up to 90 robots organized into a single-acting, focused unit.  As of now, most of these applications have been in the military area.  Gathering intelligence, locating mines and explosives, and surveillance are three common applications commonly used today in the armed forces.  What will truly be a robotics revolution is when swarm robots are used in the home or personal arena.  Imagine several robots in your house working together to clean the floors, do the laundry, and prepare meals.  This is where the future of personal robots may be headed.

Read the complete story at the links below.

Credit:  New Electronics

"Fifty years ago, predictions for the future always included robots that would, by now, be doing most of our daily domestic chores. While that hasn't happened, robots have had a huge impact on our lives, but in industry rather than the home."


Robot Butler Serves Up Snacks: Is This a Problem?

A robot butler can't be a bad thing, can it?  After all, we would all like to be waited on by a servant, especially one that can be shut down if it gives you any problems. So, just make sure that it can be turned off!  This is not a new robot, in fact the machine made its debut at Carnegie Mellon University back in September of 2009.  You can go back and look at the story done here on RobotNext about this snackbot.   Also, follow the links below to see the article from the by Charles Arthur.


    Credit:|The Observer

"The robot butler has a long and frequently chequered history. From    Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet (who could bring a nicely shaken  martini) through to HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (which served  food via a hatch, then later killed you), the idea that there must be a  better method of getting refreshments handed out than making a person  push a trolley is one that just won't go away."


MIT Touches the Future with Next Generation Tactile Robotic Skin

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is using an advanced sensor system to develop the next level of robots.  By incorporating Quantum Tunnelling Composite (QTC) technology into a robot's skin, MIT hopes to build a robot that can interact with humans via touch.  QTC, from Peratech Limited, is a new class of electrically conductive material that has been developed to advance the capability of switching and sensing systems.  As the Peratech website states:  "QTC can be tailored to suit different force, pressure, or touch sensing applications – from sensing feather-light or finger operation to heavy pressure applications, and that is why QTC is so perfect for the next tactile robot."

See the related story from Myra Per-Lee at to read about the most advanced bionic hand.

QTC Robotics

Image Credit:  Peratech Limited

QTC Pressure Sensing Material

Image Credit:  Peratech Limited

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will create the first robot that will enable a human to interact with it through touch, much as they would another human. Last week, MIT commissioned the British company Peratech to develop its next generation tactile robotic skin to accomplish its goal.



GM, NASA Build Robot Named R2

Robonaut2, or R2, as it is known, is the most advanced dextrous robot yet developed.  Built by NASA and General Motors, this robot will be able to work along side an astronaut or an autoworker.  The idea is to have the ability to work in space where it may be too dangerous for humans in some places, and to work with humans in an auto production plant to improve efficiency. GM and NASA have been long-time collaborators.  GM worked with NASA on the Lunar Rover for the Apollo moon programs.  Read the story at the link below for more details about this robot.

Two Robonaut 2 

Credit: NASA/GM

Robonaut2, or R2, is able to use its hands to do work beyond the scope of previously introduced humanoid robots. It surpasses previous dextrous humanoid
See all stories on this topic

GM, NASA build advanced dextrous robot
Creamer Media's Engineering News
Tue, 16 Feb 2010 10:36:44 GMT