Today I was reading excerpts from Robots: From Everyday to Out of This World written by the editors of Yes Magazine. One of the first concepts in the book is explaining the differences between machines, computers, and robots. The authors state that unlike machines, robots can be programmed to complete a task. I explained that this meant that a person, or human, can tell the robot what to do and then it will do it. Robots differ from computers because they have moving parts. We clarified by repeating that a robot must be able to follow directions and have parts that move.
The next conversation was about jobs that we might want a robot to do for us. Together we came up with the idea that if we wanted to explore a cave, but didn’t have a light, we wouldn’t want to do it ourselves because we might trip on a rock or a log. We could tell a robot to go into the cave and explore for us first. The robot might be able to put lights in the cave for us or might come out and tell us if the path is safe. (We also discussed the idea that if we were grown-ups that did have a light and the right equipment, we could go and explore for ourselves.)
Talking about jobs that robots can do that we cannot or don’t want to do, I asked the children if any of them had a couch. Of course everyone raised their hand. Then I asked if they had dust bunnies under their couch. You’ll be happy to know that they are not giving away any of your secrets! According to them, almost no one has these little fuzz balls in their home! After admitting that I, of course, do have dust bunnies under my couch [long-haired dogs simply won’t vacuum for themselves!] I suggested that an easy way to clean them up might be to use a robot vacuum like a Roomba. We looked at some pictures of one and then the children asked how it knows where to vacuum. We realized that many of the children were familiar with Zhuzhu Pets, so we explored the idea that the robot vacuums and the Zhuzhus were similar in that they turned around when they encountered a wall. This then led to lots of human Zhuzhus scooting around the room, changing course when their noses bumped into things.
Hmm…this got my brain churning….
Should we bring in all of the robotic hamsters we can find and create some robot mazes for them? After a quick poll, it looks like we have enough Zhuzhus available for us to create trials and mazes for. If your child has any type of Zhuzhu, they are welcome to bring it to school next week for our first official Robot Week! Let’s experiment!