From Craft to Bot
Almost anything that can be made with paper, paint and cardboard can be animated with Hummingbird, an educational robotics kit developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. Fast Company's Co.Exist site says it's a gift that can get girls interested in engineering.
No technical experience is necessary to use the kit, but classroom teachers say it fosters interest in technology among students ages 11 and up.
The Hummingbird kit consists of a customized control board along with a variety of lights, sensors and motors that can be connected to the controller without soldering. Students program their creations with a free, easy-to-learn, drag-and-drop environment that requires no prior experience with programming. The kit is now available for sale ($199) through a CMU spinoff company, BirdBrain Technologies.
Hummingbird was developed in the CREATE Lab of Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics, as part of a project called Arts & Bots.
The project, originally known as Robot Diaries, was launched with the help of the Heinz Endowments to explore how to foster interest in technology at the middle school level, particularly among girls. "Studies have shown that when they enter middle school, boys and girls are equally interested in robots," Nourbakhsh said. "But three years later, it's very different, with interest down dramatically among girls. So you have to ask: What's happening in middle school?"
Tom Lauwers, who earned his doctorate in robotics in Nourbakhsh's lab and now heads BirdBrain Technologies, said Hummingbird nicely ties into the increasingly popular "maker movement," the do-it-yourself approach to technology. As with other "makers," students using Hummingbird get hooked on the idea that they can use technology to make all sorts of things, he added.
Examples of assembled Hummingbird kits.
About Carnegie Mellon:
Carnegie Mellon is a private research university with a
distinctive mix of programs in engineering, computer science, robotics, business,
public policy, fine arts and the humanities. More than 10,000 undergraduate and
graduate students receive an education characterized by its focus on creating
and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration,
and innovation. A small student-to-faculty ratio provides an opportunity for
close interaction between students and professors. While technology is pervasive
on its 144-acre Pittsburgh campus, Carnegie Mellon is also distinctive among
leading research universities for the world-renowned programs in its College of
Fine Arts. A global university, Carnegie Mellon has campuses in Silicon Valley, Calif.,
and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia and Europe.
For more, see www.cmu.edu