Developing social skills whit theater robotics

As we have explain before, one of the main points of our project is to stimulate the creativity and the mathematical thinking of the children, but this points are not the only ones which we have in mind at the time of talking about the possibles applications of our project in a class. Other of the main points of our project is to help to develop the social skills of the students.

At the time of deal whit the theater robotics, the students will work together, for creating the robots, the actions, the plot… And of course, this will help to strengthen the ties between the students, and give the opportunity of relating between them and learn teamwork skills, but now we want to focus in explaining the advantages which could provide for a student to work whit the theater robotics, guided by a teacher specialized in developing the social skills of the students.

Some students have difficulties to express feelings and thoughts, or relating whit other students. Sometimes the causes comes from the lack of social activity in earliest stages of the learning and sometimes it comes from the fear and the unfulfilled expectations on the social realm. In the first case the best way of dealing whit it, is to support the team work, and in the second time, sometimes is needed a secure environment in which the students can began to work out the basic social skills which will give him more security at the time of interact in the real world. Theater robotics gives to the teacher the tools for creating this security environment and track the progress of the student into it.

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Some precreated robots and actions

Because we want to focus this post in the benefits of using theater robotics as a secure environment, our starting point will be the one in which the robots are already constructed, and the basic actions of this ones are already created. Now the teacher can give freedom to the student to “go into the skin” of one or more robots, meanwhile the teacher is in charge of the rest of the robots, this way the student can externalize his feelings and thoughts through the robot and observe the way the teacher’s robot react to this feelings. Because the representation of this feelings is done through the robot the student can delegate some responsibility over it, and be able to feel more free to express what he really think, and what he really wants in his relationships, allowing to the teacher to understand better to the students, which will be translated in the possibility of helping them better

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Result of the student interaction whit the precreated tools

This way we are making the student to experiment, and whit the support of the teacher, this will help him to understand his surrounding, and to understand how to work and live on it

As usual we will appreciate any comments, or question about any technical or conceptual matter of the project! ^^

Robot behavior

At the time of creating an application which allows robots to make theater, we have had to deal whit some questions about the nature of the theater. We need to analyze and understand it, so we will be able to synthesize its nature in the robots.

As we have explain, the theater is the human representation of the reality, but how it is possible to develop this concept into a non-human element? Of course, we are not trying the robots to write a theater plot, this is not what we are looking for, we are trying the student to work whit the robots, as a director, to represent the human behavior through the robots, so we want to create some tools which allows the student to represent this human behavior, what makes us to focus in exploring this time the nature of the human behavior.

We know that human behavior is a very complex matter which has been a matter of several studies for years, and we don’t want to make any philosophical research about it, we just want to find a way of simplifying it, as much as possible, to reduce it to a set of actions that the robot could carry out, to mimic it.

So, whit this idea in mind, let’s think in the human behavior. If we think about it we can reduce it to a set of individual responses, specific of each human, to different external stimulus, for example, a person can run away if he sees another person running whit a knife against him. This reaction is based in complex feeling inside the human, but the final result of this chain of feelings is easy to represent whit robots. We can create a robot who feels “fear” when it sees another robot running against it, by creating a rule which make this robot to run away when another robot receives the order to run against it. Of course the robot don’t feel real fear, it just represent it, but as we have said, the theater is just a representation of the reality, in real theater, the person who interpret a play don’t feel real fear, love or hate, the actor just represents it, based on the indications of the director, who studies this feelings to find the best way of representing them, so he is able to create some guidelines which the actor has to follow.

And this is what our project consist on, to allow the student to be the director of a play, to be able to create rules, which are capable of representing human feelings, giving to the student the oportunity of depeen in them and to study them, and that the robot would be able to understand, through the tools created in the application. The student will learn to understand this feelings at the same time he learns mechanics (while creating the robot), mathematical thinking (by programming it), verbal thinking (by creating the plot), and developing social skills through the groupal work.

Tablet application for directing the play

One of the ideas of this project is to make a program which could be used by everybody, to create, direct and enjoy a theater play. Whit the purpose of develop this idea, we have created an comprehensible application, which could be used easily by the students. We will show here a short guide of its use, illustrated whit some screenshots.
Once we open the application for the first time it will show us the following screen, the play screen 

Play screen

Play screen

In this screen we are able to set the name of the play, the size of the scenario and the plot of the play, as well as carry out some other actions, that we will explain later. Once we have introduced the asked data, we will be able to save the play, and go to the main screen, the scenario screen

The main screen, the scenario screen

The main screen, the scenario screen

In this screen we can see in the centre the scenario and all the robots (actors) of the play, spread in two list at both sides of the scenario, as well as the available actions in an horizontal list under the scenario. Over the scenario appears a short-court to the most useful actions in the play, in order of appearance (left->right): “Create an actor“, “Create an action“, “Create an object“, “Modify Play” (this one will carry us to the play screen), “Begin the play“, “Stop the play” and “Settings“. We will proceed to explain how to create an actor, and how to create an action, and after we will talk about the interaction between robots and actions.
If we push the button of “Create an actor” we will go to the actor screen

Create robot screen

Create actor screen

In this screen we can see in the right side all the defined motors and all the defined sensors of the play. We can select a port where the motor or the sensor is attached to the robot (the ports of the sensors and the motors are different, that means that the port “2” of the motors is not the same physically than the port “2” of the sensors, so in the application they are different too). By defining the motors and the ports, we make the actions portable, even if physically they don’t share a motor, in the application they can, so you can define an action in the play which uses one motor, and all the robots which have this motor, even if they have it in different ports, will be able to implement this action.
In the left side we can see a box where we can introduce a name for the robot, under this box we see other box to set the size of the robot. In this side there are three buttons too: “Save Robot” so create the actor, “Select Picture” to select a picture which will represent the robot in the scenario, and the “Set basic action” button, this button is used to select an action from all the available actions (in this case the action “MoveFoward“), which is the one that will be trigger when we move the actor over the scenario (dragging its picture), usually this action will consist on moving the robot to any place of the scenario, but there is plenty freedom to create another action which the user think is more useful to trigger when the robot is moved.

Actors moved into the scenario

Actors moved into the scenario

If we push the button next the the “Create robot” button, the “Create action” button, we will go to the Action Screen

Create action screen

Create action screen

On the left side we see on the top a box to introduce the name of the action, under it we see four boxes, which will be used to add subactions to an action, each one represent one port of the robot (not necessarily represents always the same port). The available actions to add are in the right side, in this side we can see all the available actions, which can be filter by predefined by the application, by created by the user, by motor, and by motor type. Under this actions are the properties of this subactions, the ones we can set, by clicking on the action and changing their values, before adding it (by dragging) to the left side. As we can see some actions involve more than one port, so they will require more than one slot.

Adding subactions to an action

Adding subactions to an action

The actions in the same column will be performed at the same time, and once they all finish the robot will proceed to perform the next column. You can add as much columns as you want, and repeat the same action in different columns. We will proceed to explain how the properties of the subactions works

Properties of the subaction

Properties of the subaction

The properties are: the power which defines the percentage over the maximum voltage which will be apply to the motor, and after you can select a second property. This second property can be either a property selected from a list (rotations, angle, or seconds) which after should be receive a numeric value in the box next to it by the user, or can be a target. The target will be an element of the scenario (another robot, an object or a place if the scenario) over the one the action will be performed. The properties can be set fixed or common to some subactions. If we set them as common, all the subactions of this action which have this property as common will be set whit the same value. This value will be set at the time of adding the action to the robot. Which carries out to the next point, the interaction between actors and robots

Adding actions to a robot

Adding actions to a robot

If we click on any actor, it will show all the actions which the robot will perform (if we click over it again they will be hidden). The user can add actions by dragging them to this box, and can modify their order or deleting them by dragging them from this box. The actions which have common attributes, will ask us to introduce additional data as we have explain before to fill the “gaps” in the values of the subactions of the action (this gaps are the common properties)

Setting the value of a common properties of the action. In this case the common value is the power

Setting the value of a common properties of the action. In this case the common value is the power

Once all actions to be performed are added to the robots the play can begin! Once we click over the “Begin the play” button, the actions will be send to the robot, and they will perform them, we can stop the play to continue the modifications anytime we want by clicking on the button “Stop play”
This application is still under development, so will appreciate any suggestions, opinions or questions! ^^

How our project could be applied to a class

Our project could be apply in many differents ways inside a class, because its purpose is to give freedom to the creativity spirit of both teachers and students. We can distinghis three different creative “moments” at the time of applying our project to a class

Creation of the plot: The plot can be created based on the literature, on real stories, or being created by the imagination of the teacher or of the pupils. This plot can be chosen/written freely, if we just want to focus on exercise the creativity process of the students, or can be chosen based on a topic, if we want to strengthen any adquired knowledge of any other class (“History” if for example we want the pupils to stage an historical event, “Foreign language“, if for example we ask the pupils to write the plot in this foreign language, etc.) besides the creativity porcess. The plot can be given by the teacher as a raised problem by the teacher that the student has to solve by the creation of the robots and/or their programation, or can be chosen/written by the pupil.

working in their projects

Working in their projects

Construction of the robots: The robots are created by the pupils with the purpose of give solution to the challenges that the plot represents, for example, if we choose the plot of the “red Riding Hood” we are going to need a robot which is going to be the Wolf, so we will need a robot which is able to move, and to “eat” other robots  (the way of how a robot eat another robot, is letting to the freedom to the constructors or to an agreement of the teacher and the constructors). The robots can be given by the teacher or the teacher can give a model of how to build the robots, but this is not what we recommend, because it takes away the opportunity of the pupils of thinking how to solve the problem

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Creating the robot

Programation of the robots: Once we have the robots, we proceed to programar them, the programation will be done in a tablet application, whit an interactive interface,  and after, it will be sent to the robot, so the robot will interpret it and will carry out the asked tasks. The programation is based on “small” actions created by the pupil or the teacher (once again we don’t recommend this, for the same reason that we said before), which the student will combine to deal with the challenges that the plot presents.

exploring robotics

Programming with the help of a teacher

As you can see this is not a linear process, it is expected that the student has to rebuild the robot based on the challenges the programation of the robots will be presenting to the student.
We hope that this explanation is clear to everybody! Like always, if you have any questions, please ask them to us! =)

New technlogies in education

At the time of knowing about our project, a lot of question could come to your mind, we will try to give answer to some.

Why theater?
Why is the theater so important for the education? Nowadays, in most countries, education is focus on the obtaining of knowlegde throught the study, what it is known by formal learning, but it is proved that most of the knowledge obtained by a person is by informal learning and non-formal learning, that is, by the direct interaction of the person with the world. And what is the theater but the representation of the world, or in other words, the simulation of all posibles direct interactions of any person with the world? We are giving the student infinite possibilities of interaction with the world, which the student can use to learn and experiment about it.
Letting the student to be actor, director and playwright at the same time, is giving the oportunity to the student to interact with the world, to help to understand it, and to build their own interpretation about it, that is the culmination of the creativity, which would help to the personal development of the student, and this is the main point of the education.

Why robots?
New technologies offers us endless possibilities at the time of design new educational methods, allowing us to create new ways of approach to the students, and to understand their needs.  That is the case of robots. Throught the construction and programation of robots we allow the student to develop creative solutions to problems raised to the teacher, we give the student freedom in the interpretation of the problem and its solution, making the student, pupil and teacher at the same time.

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And what have to do robots whit teather? We can understand, as we explained before, the theater as the representation of the world, but we can understand it too as a problem raised by a teacher, a problem based in asking the students to give their own representation about any asked reality. The robots then became the new tools to develop this representation, allowing them to create new forms of represent this reality.

In conclusion, with the theater robots, what we are trying to do, is to join the best way of learning about the world, with the endless possibilities robots gives in the creation of solution to problems

We will really like to know if you have more questions about our project and to give answer to them!

Educational robotics goes theater!

What if robots would performance a theatre play? Or even better, what if you could be the director and make your own play? No play is possible without actors and interesting characters, so how to turn state-of-art robot technology into Wolf of Red Riding Hood or William Tell?

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The first connections of the project!

The ambitious goal of our latest project called “RobotStory – Digital storytelling and theater performance with educational robotics” is to conceptualise, designing, and build a new educational robotics environment where you can bring alive the actors of your dream by using the latest technology available. Once built, you can assign roles to the robots and script your theatre play with a tablet computer. The world premiere is waiting for you!

The project is driven by Joensuu Science Society, and it will be implemented by Mikko Laamanen, Arturo Gil, and Ilkka Jormanainen. You can follow the progress of the project in this blog, we try to update our latest advances here every now and then, despite the summer :) So stay tuned!

Kisojen jälkeen

RoboCup Junior MM-kisat 2011 ovat nyt ohi, on aika koota yhteen kokemuksia ja opittua. Kisoihin osallistui 28 maata ja 1600 osallistujaa. Vanhempien RoboCupissa oli hiukan vähemmän osallistujia, n. 1400. Suomen joukkueiden menestys oli odotettu, pelastusroboteissa hyvää keskitasoa, jalkapallossa hiukan alle keskitason. Tanssissa pystyimme ylittämään odotukset, maailmanmestaruus Super Teamissa oli todella iloinen yllätys. Super Team on kisoissa muodostettava uusi joukkue, joka koostuu kolmesta eri maasta/joukkueesta ja tekee uuden kilpailuesityksen 24 tunnin aikana. Suomen tyttöjen kanssa joukkueeseen kuului 5 kroatilaista poikaa ja yksi kiinalainen poika. Tekemisen vaikeudesta kertoo esim se, että kiinalainen ei puhunut ollenkaan englantia ja kommunikointi hoidettiin piirtämällä ja elehtimällä.

Tulevaisuutta miettiessä tulee mieleen monia asioita Suomen RCJ menetyksen edistämiseksi. Ensimmäinen ja polttavin on tietenkin resurssointi. Robotiikka ja teknologia pitäisi saada koulutasolla arvostetuksi oppiaineeksi. Tämä voi tapahtua ainoastaan poliittisten päättäjien ymmärrettyä asian tärkeyden tulevaisuuden kannalta ja opettjankoulutuksen muututtua teknologiaystävällisemmäksi. Erityisesti luokanopettajien koulutuksen tulisi sisältää riittävästi korkeatasoista teknologiakoulutusta. 

Tänään Suomen joukkueella on vapaapäivä ja lähdemme tutustumaan historialliseen Istanbuliin. Kotimatka alkaa huomenna varhain ja kotikonnuille Kontiolahteen toivomme saapuvamme alkuillasta huomenna 12.7.2011.