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Crafts Teach Robotics: Hummingbird Kit for School Kids
Kit contains a customized control board along with a variety of lights, sensors and motors that can be connected to the controller without soldering.
By Robotics Trends' News Sources - Filed Jul 18, 2012

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Kids in classrooms get to spend time on arts and crafts, and if they're really lucky they get to spend time working on electronics and robotics. But what if the two were combined, and the artistic side of a kid could be expressed by what they made their craft do, given some electronic components? That's the thinking behind a new kit that blends art with robots.

Carnegie Mellon University writes, "The kit, called Hummingbird, 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."

As Gizmag notes, "Unlike some other educational robotics kits, in which people simply follow instructions to build a specific robot, Hummingbird is intended to foster a DIY spirit in its users."

"We want students to become inventors of technology rather than users of technology," said Robotics Professor Illah Nourbakhsh, whose CREATE Lab developed Hummingbird for a project called Arts & Bots. "Hummingbird feeds a student's natural curiosity about technology by enabling her to incorporate robotics into something she is making that is meaningful or useful."

Not only is the kit amazing for teaching students about technology and how it might be applied to accomplish tasks, but the kit is helping teach about much more than just gadgets:

Terry Richards, who teaches high school human anatomy and physiology at The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, had her students use the kit to build models of the human arm and its musculature. "A lot of the girls said it helped them see where muscles attached," Richards said. "They really had to think about where the muscles could attach on their models." In the process, they learned how to install servos to move the elbow and wrist, wire them to the Hummingbird control board and write programs to control the movement. "Even in high school, students aren't usually introduced to this technology unless they are on the robotics team," she added.

It's amazing to think about students becoming this familiar with the functions of and potential for technology. Students can learn how electronics can sense what's happening in the environment and react to it, and as the kit is tied in to crafts and imagination, who knows what creative and helpful ideas will come out of classroom projects. The Hummingbird kit seems like an amazing tool for teaching our next generation of scientists, and inspiring creative uses for what technology is available. It'd be great to see a school host a science faire themed on technology helping the environment, using Hummingbird kits!


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