Robots to join education programme

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013
Jody O'Callaghan/Dean Kozanic

Science Alive gave a demonstration of robots they have bought.

robots
DEAN KOZANIC/ Fairfax NZ
HERE THEY ARE: Science Alive! education manager John Wynyard demonstrates two robots, Orange and Blue, that will be coming to Canterbury classrooms in 2014 as part of Science Alive! outreach programmes.

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A pair of macarena-dancing, pint-sized robots are bound for Canterbury classrooms next year to spark pupils' excitement in science.

Science Alive! received the French-made robots - Orange and Blue - about three weeks ago. Science Alive! is programming and learning their quirks ahead of its 2014 school outreach programmes, chief executive Neville Petrie says.

"They can be extremely temperamental, especially if the batteries get a bit hot."

The robots recognise faces and objects, have conversations in French and English, play hide-and-seek, dance, and perform tai chi.

On falling, they say "ouch", but they shut down as they drop so nothing on their $17,000 kit breaks.

Their purchase was supported by Tait Communications and Contel Charitable Trust, with the aim they would be used to encourage primary and secondary students to be interested in computers, software, engineering, and maths.

"Because we have no building [after it was quake-damaged], we've really been focusing on our education and outreach programmes," Petrie said.

Junior pupils started with the beebot, a mini robot shaped like a bumble bee, then progressed to lego robots, and now older pupils could try their hands at programming humanoids.

This year, Science Alive! delivered programmes to about 12,000 children throughout Canterbury.

Another 20,000 adults had also taken part through outreach programmes, libraries and hired activities.

Science Alive! was the only New Zealand organisation working with primary and secondary schools.

Canterbury University's HIT Lab has five of the humanoids, and Petrie said he was in discussions about collaborating with it.

"We want to get kids excited about science. There will be some people who think, "wow, this is really amazing".

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