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The Occupy Mars Learning Adventure Project


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Robots in the Classroom

In Finnish experiment, robots teach language and math classes

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Students use a language trainer robot, Ellias, during their lesson at the school in Tampere, Finland March 27, 2017.

Credit: Attila Cser/Reuters

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riikka Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The math robot — dubbed OVObot — is a small, blue machine around 10 inches high and resembles an owl, and was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be trialled for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years, but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3D printing are allowing smaller start-up companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.

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We need designers

36 Student Teams Roll on to URC 2018 Finals

From a record field of 95 student teams, the University Rover Challenge (URC) has announced the 36 team finalists from 10 countries which have been selected to compete May 31 – June 2 at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah.  [To watch the official video announcement (produced courtesy of Protocase), please click here.]

Teams previously passed a Preliminary Design Review milestone, and most recently passed an extremely competitive System Acceptance Review milepost. Vehicles competing at the URC finals will face four extremely difficult tasks involving their Mars rovers: 1) The Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, 2) The Equipment Servicing Task, 3) The Autonomous Traversal Task, and 4) The Science Cache Task.  These events challenge teams to design and build highly capable robotic systems able to traverse extreme and aggressive terrain, perform maintenance on critical field equipment and conduct meaningful field science.

Now in its 12th year, URC has challenged hundreds of teams and thousands of students from around the world through this unique multi-disciplinary educational event.  In recent years URC’s parent organization, the Mars Society, has formed the Rover Challenge Series (RCS), which features similar competitions around the world aimed at developing the next generation of talented and ambitious leaders in engineering, science and space exploration.

The Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to URC’s primary sponsor – Protocase – for once again producing this year’s video announcement. As always, we would also like to thank Kevin Sloan, our long-time URC Director, and his staff of volunteers for all of their hard work in planning and coordinating this important scientific competition.

A full review of this year’s University Rover Challenge will be presented at the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention (August 23-26) in Pasadena, California. Register onlinetoday to take advantage of ‘Early Bird’ ticket rates.


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Vietnam we need your help with the Nao and Pepper Robots

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Pepper is a humanoid robot manufactured by SoftBank Robotics (formerly Aldebaran Robotics), which is owned by SoftBank, designed with the ability to read emotions. It was introduced in a conference on 5 June 2014, and was showcased in Softbank mobile phone stores in Japan beginning the next day.  Pepper’s emotion comes from the ability to analyze expressions and voice tones.Pepper was launched in the UK in 2016 and there are currently two versions available.

Design

The robot’s head has four microphones, two HD cameras (in the mouth and forehead), and a 3-D depth sensor (behind the eyes). There is a gyroscope in the torso and touch sensors in the head and hands. The mobile base has two sonars, six lasers, three bumper sensors, and a gyroscope.[4]

It is able to run the existing content in the app store designed for Aldebaran’s other robot, Nao.

Purpose

Pepper is not a functional robot for domestic use. Instead, Pepper is intended “to make people happy”, enhance people’s lives, facilitate relationships, have fun with people and connect people with the outside world.[5] Pepper’s creators hope that independent developers will create new content and uses for Pepper.[6]

Pepper is currently being used as a receptionist at several offices in the UK and is able to identify visitors with the use of facial recognition, send alerts for meeting organisers and arrange for drinks to be made. Pepper is said to be able to chat to prospective clients.

The robot has also been employed at banks and medical facilities in Japan, using applications created by Seikatsu Kakumei. and is also employed at all Hamazushi restaurants in Japan.

Action Research

Teachers, engineers and scientists working at the Barboza Space Center are working on new training materials for the Nao and Pepper robots.  We are getting ready to work with students with special needs. Our students with autism will be in the first round of our action research projects.

Graphic Organizers for Robot Programs

We are training our students and teachers using custom software and graphic organizers designed for the Nao and Pepper robots.

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Robot Programs for Gifted and Talented Students

The STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages), the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures project-based learning and space science summer fellowships, and robot building will continue in 2018.  We invite you to follow our photo essays.

Contact Information

Bob Barboza, Founder/Director

Barboza Space Center

Long Beach, California, USA

Suprschool@aol.com

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Vietnam we need your help

Get Involved in Mars Society “Red Eagle” Student Contest to Design Mars Lander

Students and from the Barboza Space Center will support other teams that want to try for this new international competition.  Write your letter for possible collaboration and send it to Barboza Space Center (Suprschool@aol.com.  Attention Bob Barboza.

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What do I need to do to get started?

The Mars Society recently announced plans for an international student engineering contest to design a lander capable of delivering a ten metric ton payload safely to the surface of Mars. The competition is open to student teams from around the world. Participants are free to choose any technology to accomplish the proposed mission and need to submit design reports of no more than 50 pages by March 31, 2018.

These contest reports will be evaluated by a panel of judges and will serve as the basis for a down-select to ten finalists who will be invited to present their work in person at the next International Mars Society Convention in September 2018. The first place winning team will receive a trophy and a $10,000 cash prize. Second through fifth place winners will receive trophies and prizes of $5,000, 3,000, $2000, and $1,000 respectively. In honor of the first craft used to deliver astronauts to another world, the contest is being named “Red Eagle.”

Background:

The key missing capability required to send human expeditions to Mars is the ability to land large payloads on the Red Planet. The largest capacity demonstrated landing system is that used by Curiosity, which delivered 1 ton. That is not enough to support human expeditions, whose minimal requirement is a ten ton landing capacity. NASA has identified this as a key obstacle to human missions to Mars, but has no program to develop any such lander. SpaceX had a program, called Red Dragon, which might have created a comparable capability, but it was cancelled when NASA showed no interest in using such a system to soft land crews returning to Earth from the ISS or other near-term missions.

In the absence of such a capability, NASA has been reduced to proposing irrelevant projects, such as building a space station in lunar orbit (not needed for either lunar or Mars expeditions), or claim that it is working on the technology for large visionary interplanetary spaceships which will someday sail from lunar orbit to Mars orbit and back, accomplishing nothing.

For full details about the Red Eagle student engineering contest, including team rules, guidelines and requirements, please click here.

 

 

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