updated 5/10/2011 10:19:20 AM ET 2011-05-10T14:19:20

A small, two-wheeled robot named Finch could change the classroom experience for computer science students.

Equipped with temperature and light sensors, speakers, multicolored LED lights, and a three-axis accelerometer such as the one found in the Wii console, Finch can be easily programmed to transform into a buzzing alarm clock or a 3-D mouse, and can also be used to draw pictures and dance, among performing other tasks.

“Students are more interested and more motivated when they can work with something interactive and create programs that operate in the real world,” said Finch developer Tom Lauwers, an instructor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute.

“We packed Finch with sensors and mechanisms that engage the eyes, the ears -- as many senses as possible.”

Carnegie Mellon plans to use the souped-up robot to teach computer science students how to program computers. The hope is that Finch will engage students who have become accustomed to high-tech gadgets.

“In a computer science classroom, you have students coming in these days who have had access to really cool computers their whole lives, not just laptops but smartphones, [and] video game consoles,” Lauwers told TechNewsDaily.

Often, these students get to university-level computer science and they’re told to write a program that does mundane tasks such as having a computer spit out text lines, Lauwers said. While this may have been exciting 20 years ago when computers weren’t capable of doing a lot, it no longer is, Lauwers said.

Finch can be purchased online from BirdBrain Technologies, a startup company founded by Lauwers, for $99. So far, the little birdlike robot can be programmed in Java and Python languages, but Lauwers says he is working to develop graphical languages so that elementary school students can also program Finch.



© 2012 TechNewsDaily


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments