Friday, January 23, 2015

S-O-S: Substitute Online Student Robot

How can we improve the way that a student
who is absent or cannot be in the classroom learn in school?

     The answer: S-O-S: Substitute Online Student Robot a small, Wi-Fi and radio signal operated, affordable robot that allows the absent student to travel along with the class and learn even though the student cannot be physically present in the classroom in school. 

      So who can benefit from using this robot to help them learn?

It can help students with medical limitations, including injuries or surgery requiring recovery in a hospital or at home, asthma, highly contagious diseases that require quarantine, allergies, chemotherapy, influenza, and other ailments, so that they can sit in on their classes while at home or in their hospital room. 
Students with allergies to certain chemicals could sit in another classroom and still participate in a science lab experiment. 
Special Needs students who can take advanced courses in their school, but who are not yet able to be physically in the classroom with other students, can participate more comfortably in a separate smaller size classroom. It can be used to help introduce a student, who has never been mainstreamed before, to the new class; thus, helping the student to know what to expect before he /she is actually mainstreamed.
Home-schooled students could enhance their educational experience by attending courses at public or even private schools in their area.  

     All of these situations can be made possible with the S-O-S, the absent student will be able to socialize, learn, and simply enjoy being in the classroom while not "physically being in the classroom."
     The S-O-S is a robot made almost entirely out of LEGO® products and products made for use with LEGO® elements. Using Skype® on just about any tablet device and/or computer for the student with Internet access, the student is virtually in the classroom. 
     The S-O-S may not be as sophisticated as the more expensive robots that establish your physical presence in a distant location, but with an 18” x 12.5” x 10” body, a 360ยบ turntable, and fitted with any tablet device with a camera, the S-O-S is both portable and affordable, while still being able to replicate some of the functions and serve the same basic purpose as more expensive robots. This new robot has the following features: 

The teacher (or a class monitor) control of the turning movements of the robot using an EV3 Infrared Beacon so he or she can point the robot to view any part of the classroom, giving the teacher control to focus on specific aspects of the classroom or other students. 
The student, at home, is able to control the robot’s arm movements to raise its hand to answer a question, and control light signals using a radio device called NXTBee®. 
The robot has “grasp” type hands to hold small, lightweight objects that is placed in its grip by the teacher or a classmate.
It is easily adjustable to all sorts of tablet devices.
Being portable, the S-O-S can be carried around in a case from class to class, or even taken on a school field trip (robot body can be detached from the turntable for light travel), using cellular data or Wi-Fi hotspot to access the Internet and Skype®.

  The cost of making a S-O-S is about $300, if you have the LEGO® kits, if not $1200-$1300. That would fit any school’s budget and increase educational access for homeschooling families. The software for controlling the S-O-S, is actually free from LEGO® (the Retail Consumer versions) and is compatible on Windows and Mac OS. 
     With an affordable price, a portable smaller body, and easy access using any Internet connection, the S-O-S is a great way to allow students to learn even though they cannot be physically present in the classroom.

Specifications & Parts
Dimensions: 18”x12.5”x10”   Weight: 4lbs.
(1) LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3 Kit  (Retail/Consumer version)
Includes: (1) Intelligent Brick, (1) Infrared Sensor, (2) Color Sensors, (1) Infrared Remote Beacon, (2) Medium Servo Motors, and various LEGO® elements. 

(1) LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT Kit (Retail/Consumer version) Includes: 
     Intelligent Brick, (1) NXT Servo Motor, (2) NXT Touch Sensors, and various  
     LEGO® elements. 
(1) LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT Intelligent Brick, (1) additional NXT Touch Sensor
(2) LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT Intelligent Bricks, (1) LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT Servo Motor, (3) LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT Touch Sensors

  (3) Packs of Frame Beams (www.LEGO

(1) MinuteBot Base – MINUTEBOT® - or  

(10) NXT/EV3 Connector cables or mindsensors Flex-Cables® - http://
(2) 10 cm     (5) 20 cm     (3) 35 cm

(2) Dexter Industries NXTBee Pro®
Digi XBee® 60 mW radio. This unit has a range of 1.6 KM.
9 volt battery
 (9) AA batteries or Optional: (3) LEGO rechargeable batteries and Chargers

Application - Skype® (free version)
Windows and Mac OS
NXT-G programming - LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT 
  EV3 programming - LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3

Building System - LEGO Technic® 

Communication System - Any Internet provider 

Display Devices
Any tablet device (iPad® Samsung Galaxy®) that uses the Skype® App 
Any home computer with Internet & Skype®

Optibotz Bots

This design may be a winner;
plus two.

We added coding,
to teach them what to do.

Core Values

      One of the things we learned from our experience with FIRST, is Core Values.

     Most of our team has worked together since last year; this year one of the team's younger brother joined the team. We cooperate with each other and respect each other's ideas. We helped each other learn about robotics; how to fix certain missions on the robot. With our Research Project we diplomatically shared the work. We practice Gracious Professionalism with each other when we were doing robot trial runs against each other.  

     One of the team's members has allergies & might have been allergic to the coach’s cat; we had practice at the coach’s house. He thought he had to quit the team, but instead the team agreed to changed the practices to his house to keep him on the team. 

     Even our parents practice the Core Values. Our coach, “L3GoBots” Lady Greene, has an eye condition which prevents her from driving at night. So, when our practices are at night, our parents take turns bringing her to and from practice.

     While working hard do we have fun? Yes, we do! We love our snack breaks where we eat, drink, and tell jokes. Singing and dancing are favorite pastimes, and playing foosball against each other is what we do best!

     Since our team consists of only 4 people, we are very close with each other; we are like an extended family.

Online Interview & Demo at VGo Communications

        We had  an opportunity to go online with VGo Communications for an interview with the VGo experts at VGo headquarters using the VGo robot itself. We spoke to Ms. Partyka, Education Development Manager at VGo Communications about the VGo robot, its sensors, and the special programs. 

        First we asked a few questions, and then we were allowed to do a test run the robot, driving around a small area with a ramp and a mini classroom. It was amazing driving the robot from our computer using a VGo app. We were impressed by the camera on the robot that could move up and down; to see from side to side the robot was able to turn, even 360 degrees. 

        We asked “what sensors are in place to keep the VGo from bumping into a wall or someone?” Ms. Partyka pointed out that there were sensors on the bottom and top to differentiate between tall objects and short objects. We also liked the fact that the robot object detector sensors that informed you when it was about to fall off a ledge.  The many sensors incorporated into the VGo help to make it a safer robot. Additionally, we liked how you can take a screenshot of what the VGo sees, so you can save the picture, such as a diagram on the board.

We finished by taking a group photo of ourselves through the VGo and then docking it into its charger. Our online visit there showed us how the VGo operated, and why it worked the way it did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Interview with a Home-schooling Mother...

        We interviewed a home-schooling mother about her experience with teaching her children. We asked her if she used any technology for the class, and she said that they usually use anything with an Internet connection for research purposes. She said that they used a laptop, tablet, or even phone to look things up.
         When we asked her if she would be interested in a telepresence robot that could allow her children to attend public school classes, she said that if it would allow her oldest son to attend a college level course for college credit, she would allow him to attend a class. We also asked Mrs. Yuen if she was interested in a robot that could help contact other homeschooling students and she replied that a robot, which would allow her children to Skype(R) and perform other functions would be helpful. 
         Finally, we asked Mrs. Yuen if there was ever a situation where she and her kids could not attend a field trip or visit due to weather conditions. She said that where they live, there is a lot of snow, and that could prevent them from being able to drive to other places while the other homeschooling students in their group might able to go. A portable robot that could be carried on a field trip would provide her children with an opportunity to be present on the trip and expand their educational experiences.

      We think a small, portable telepresence robot would be helpful to Mrs. Yuen and her children to help further advance their education.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Interview with Dr. Faccio

Part of our research included interviews with public school educators, homeschooling parents, and a developers of “telepresence robotic devices.”

We interviewed Dr. Faccio, a principal at a New Hyde Park  High School.

Dr. Faccio, in response to our question about a small robot that would “substitute” for an absent student: 

“I love it. The school district is trying to put together a program that uses Skype. We don’t have the ability to raise its hand, and it’s hard to have that classroom interaction. The idea of the robot being able to physically raise its hand would allow the student more opportunities, as the student can’t orally ask to answer a question. Since it would be fairly small, it wouldn’t distract the kids in the classroom.”

In response to our question, Do you think this will help cut down on the number of home tutors?

“Definitely! If the students would be able to “attend” school in this way, it’ll allow them to actually learn in school without having to hire someone to come every day, and everyone wants to save money these days.” 

He  also added,

“Some cancer students have to go to chemotherapy, which makes them stay home for six weeks. In those six weeks, that’s a lot of valuable knowledge being lost. Let’s say a student goes in for chemo on Monday. They can rest on Tuesday, but then they could hook up their phone or iPad to the one in school, and they could attend and learn instead of having to make up a bulk of work before their next treatment.” 

“Actually, I have an idea for you. What if you could hook up that tablet or iPad and be able to have the teacher scan in a handout or a worksheet, the student could download it on their iPad or tablet and print it out, complete it, and scan it back in and send it to the teacher, who could check their work?”

We have incorporated that idea into our idea.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sneak Peek 1...

The Optibotz robot is ready for action, 
but by our competitors, it has not been seen;
so here is a sneak peek of our machine.

Here is the brain,
at the games it will reign!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

FLL World Class Question:

This year’s FIRST LEGO League challenge

is about education.

FLL teams will be looking for ways to improve the learning process.

The Optibotz started out researching 3 areas: 

     What is the latest technology in education? 
     What alternatives are there to conventional learning? 
     What special needs are there in the learning population?

After extensive research we decided to focus on something that would actually address something in all three areas. We formulated our FLL World Class Question.

How could we improve the way a student who is absent, or cannot be in the classroom, learn in school?

      Our team’s research is about a robot that could sit in, “substitute” for a student, if he or she is absent for a long period of time.  The robot might also allow home-schooled students who wish to take particular courses at a public or private school, or allow special needs students to sit in on classes from their own classroom. There have been robots that can possibly do this such as, Telbotics - PEBBLES  (Providing Education By Bringing Learning Environments to Students) by IBM back in 2006 and currently the Double by Double Robotics and the VGo by VGo Communications.
Basically, the PEBBLES robot was designed to allow students to participate in class,  keep socially interacted with classmates and teachers, and keep up with the classwork and homework. Two PEBBLES robots are needed; one with the student, one at his/her school. With the PEBBLES robot, the student can turn the robot’s head so it faces the board or a student, and raise the robot’s “hand.” The PEBBLES robot is generally used in England and Canada. 
 The Double, from Double Robotics, is a telepresence robot with an iPad mount (for your iPad) on a telescoping stand on balancing wheels. It is controlled with an App used on an iPad or iPhone. The cost is  $2,499, with  a charging dock $299. Audio Kit $99, and Case $69 sold separately.
       VGo, from VGo Communications, is like Skype® on a moving platform. However, they have their own technology for online communication; it is based on XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol.) It can hear, talk, and move as if the user was actually standing there. The picture quality and HD Screen along with the HD Sound system allows the user to experience actually being in a place while somewhere else. Originally developed for the business and medical community it is now being used in schools for students who cannot attend school for a long period of time or not at all due to medical reasons. In a school situation it can run for a full school day, up to 12 hours, before needing to be charged, and now has a computer or tablet device app that can control the VGo through Wi-Fi. This allows the user to control the robot’s movements and eve take pictures of the environment it is in. The robot costs $5,995, with additional subscriptions of about $100 a month. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Optibotz: Team Profile


We are FIRST LEGO League team # 1082, The Optibotz. We are a private team of 4 members - 2 of us are brothers, we attend different schools, we have a few different interests, but we all share our love for LEGO building. Let us introduce ourselves:

Hi, my name is Corban, and I am an 8th grader currently attending Hunter College High School. I am 13 years old and my favorite subjects are math and Latin. I am a five-year veteran of FLL (FIRST LEGO League) and I continue to love this robotics competition.  Each year it gives me a new challenge to work on. I aspire to enroll in MIT and perhaps become a researcher for big companies.  
     Sports that I enjoy playing are basketball and badminton, and my hobbies are hiking, reading, and making stuff. I enjoy nature and outdoor activities. I also play the drums when I have free time. I decided to join FLL this year so that I could finish my FLL “career” so to speak to the very end. FLL is also a new learning experience each year, and always helps me build up my social and teamwork skills. After this robotic season, I will be eligible for FRC (First Robotics Competition) and I will probably try out for it.. 

     My name is Joshua age 13. I go to M.S. 67Q and am in 8th grade. Some of my favorite subjects in school are Science Olympiad, Math, and Science. I like these subjects because I am either good at them or I like the teacher. When I grow up, I am aiming to either be an aerospace engineer, because I like to design and build flying machines. 
     Some of the sports I play are basketball, swimming, and biking. I also run for fun, but not with a team or anything. Some of the things I like to do in my spare time are sewing, playing Beyblade, basically battling spinning tops, and play pranks or jokes on other people. Some of my favorite things to do are playing video games, and playing expansion and word board games. I like those things because they are constantly changing, and often, no 2 games are ever the same. 
     I decided to join the FLL robotics team because I thought it would be fun. I also thought it would be a good idea to learn to work well with other people. So then, if I ever had to work with others, the skill wouldn’t be foreign to me. I joined the team because I wanted to learn to work as a team, and to experience something new. I had a lot of fun the last two years on the team, so this is my third year on the team. 
     Overall, I think that joining the team was a good idea. I have lots of fun working with my teammates on the robots and the innovation for our Research project.

     My name is Matthew and I am 14 years old. This is my second year being on a FIRST LEGO League team, and I love every minute of it. I am in ninth grade and I attend New Hyde Park Memorial High School. My favorite subjects in school are English, Orchestra, and Art. I play the cello in the orchestra. When I grow up, I want to be an author and/or a comic artist for DC Comics. I also would like to be a LEGO Designer; I practice at home with the downloadable software on my computer. 
At school, I run on the Junior High track team and occasionally take drawing requests from my friends. My favorite things are comics, LEGO, and books. My favorite author is Rick Riordan, and my favorite book series is his Heroes Of Olympus series. I also enjoy watching T.V. My favorite shows are Young Justice and the new show on CW, The Flash. 

     My name is Gabriel and I am 12 years old. I attend seventh grade at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. My favorite subjects in school are social studies, World Language, and orchestra. I am first cello in the Intermediate Orchestra, and I also play in the String Ensemble. The sports I like and play are play basketball, volleyball, and hacky sack in school and at home.
     I've made and played with LEGO elements before, but this is the first time I have built a LEGO Mindstorms robot. I was invited to join the team by Coach Greene. I accepted the offer because I love to experiment with LEGO and try new things. I also wanted to join, because the LEGO Mindstorms robot intrigued me. I am looking forward to participating in the FIRST LEGO League tournament this year.