Huckleberry students learn about robotics

May 18, 2017 by

Published in the May 17, 2017 edition

INTRODUCING "Andy the robot," a Roomba 650 that was donated to the HHS Maker Space to provide hands-on robotic exploration for students by iRobot engineer Andy String, shown with his son, Neal (left) and his second-grade classmate Luke Moschella following String's STEM presentations to students last week. (Courtesy Photo)

INTRODUCING “Andy the robot,” a Roomba 650 that was donated to the HHS Maker Space to provide hands-on robotic exploration for students by iRobot engineer Andy String, shown with his son, Neal (left) and his second-grade classmate Luke Moschella following String’s STEM presentations to students last week. (Courtesy Photo)

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

LYNNFIELD — Last week, students at the Huckleberry Hill School participated in interactive presentations on robotics with iRobot principal systems engineer Andy String, who is a parent of Huckleberry Hill student Neal String.

String’s presentations, held Monday through Thursday, were part of the school’s STEM enrichment instruction and iRobot also donated a rumba to the school’s Maker Space, which the second grade students chose to name “Andy.”

String said, “iRobot is very active in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) outreach to schools and colleges. Each employee is given 16 hours per year to charge to STEM activities, which includes school visits, judging of robotics competitions, mentoring, etc.”

He added, “Some of us like to do STEM activities so much that we do them in our spare time in addition to the paid time, like me. I’ve held events at the Boston Children’s Museum, judged one of the recent FIRST Robotics Regional Competitions at Reading Memorial High School, presented to the North Reading Middle School, mentored a student robotics group at Melrose High, among others.”

He told the students that he became involved in robotics because he has always been interested in how things work, loves technical Legos and also loves to solve problems. His interests vary from playing the piano to building robots and programming.

Asked what the students will do with “Andy the Robot,” String said, “The students will have the opportunity to observe its behavior, investigate the limits of its sensors, and even disassemble/reassemble it as a way to encourage hands-on exploration of robot systems. It will be included in the Huckleberry Hill School’s Maker Space as one of the things for the students to use. Oh, and it can clean the floor in the library too.”

During String’s presentation, the students were taught about the engineering process, what robots are, and how they’re impacting everyone’s lives.

With the school’s fourth graders, for example, String discussed the difference between real robots and robots they see in movies as well as what robots are and how they are defined and the ways in which robots do the things people do not want to do or can’t otherwise do as efficiently as a robot, such as manufacture an automobile.

String also discussed with the students how robots work (i.e.: sensors gather information, electric brain decides what to do, robot acts on the decision. Sensors–>Computing–>Action), as well as who are engineers and what do they do, and the engineering process: (Ask–>Imagine–>Plan–>Create–>Improve–>Repeat).

The students then experienced hands-on exploration robots String brought, including two robots “that both clean, but do it differently using different sensors and different ways of thinking,” he explained. This demonstration involved using a Roomba 980m which navigates back and forth, and a Roomba 650, which navigates in more of a zig-zag pattern.

The presentation concluded with a hands-on demonstrating and exploration of two other robots, the Braava Jet, which is a mopping robot, and the Looj, which is a gutter cleaning robot.

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