Robots Built for Daily Educational Demonstrations
Matthew's philosophies on encouraging kids to get into computer programming and electronics of course extends to the robots that he builds. Rather than buying expensive, proprietary robot kits, Matthew builds his from scratch. He sources out parts from multiple vendors to ensure quality and then goes through several prototypes before settling on the cheapest, most effective build that he can come up with. While that is great for the lab's budget, it also serves as a good talking point with parents and educators about the benefits of building from scratch both economically and also for the unique learning opportunities (i.e. challenges) that it presents. Matthew has learned that if a child builds something completely from scratch, starting with the barest of components, then they feel a greater sense of pride and accomplishment than they otherwise would have.
Twitch is the newest autonomous robot that navigates it's world by sensing distance (sonar), color, and direction (compass). It was designed from scratch in Blender and is fully 3D printed in such a way that it simply snaps together. Twitch is used for daily demonstrations and during robotics classes. Using it's senses it is able to navigate obstacle courses made of walls and colored floor tiles. It's purpose is to inspire and teach critical thinking skills.
Chip, the Infrared Sensing Autonomous Robot
Chip is an autonomous object-avoidance robot that built for daily public demonstrations. He was Matthew's first micro-controller based project and as such has been used the most. Designed with character in mind and everything exposed, he uses his wheels to move in a straight line until his infrared distance sensor detects a close obstacle, at which point he will stop, back up, look all around, and choose the best path. Chip is a highly successful ambassador into the world of electronics and robotics. Children and adults who are at first not interested in the electronics area quickly change their mind when he is brought to life and his functions are explained in detail. Chip is also Matthew's favorite creation because of all of the lessons he has learned through him, from electronics design to child psychology.
Echo, the Sonar Sensing Autonomous Robot
Echo is object-friendly autonomous robot used for public demonstrations that built upon a different microcontroller architecture (Ti Launchpad). Rather than avoiding obstacles, she actively seeks them out using sonar, and if they are human, she will follow them around in a very animated fashion.
Nano, the Light Sensing Autonomous Robot
Nano is a very simple autonomous robot using the ATtiny85 microcontroller. Its very special purpose is attract and engage very small children that may be intimidated by the other robots. It accomplishes this by being very small, and having a very simple mode of operation: when you cast shade over it, using your hand, it vibrates and flashes colors until it moves out of the shadow. It’s reaction is unexpected and leaves kids wanting to do more.
Bumper, the Touch Sensitive Autonomous Robot
Bumper is a simple, Arduino powered, autonomous robot that gets around objects by first bumping into them to determine their location. Coming in at about forty dollars worth of parts, Bumper is used as the model robot that participants assemble and code during Matthew's ROBOT LAB class.