We called the first robot we built "SciBorg". It "sees" with two reflectance sensors, "feels" with a front and back touch sensors, "talks" with a beeper, and "walks" via two independently driven wheels. SciBorg's behavior is determined by a "brain" that controls the actuators (wheels, beeper) based on inputs from the sensors (reflectance, clap, and touch sensors). The brain is a computer (the Handy Board ) programmed in a high-level language ( Handy Logo ), both of which were designed by the MIT Media Lab's Epistemology and Learning Group. It is easy to program SciBorg to do simple tasks like following a line (press here for a movie) and finding its way through an obstacle course.

We believe that robots like SciBorg can serve as the basis for accessible, engaging, and multi-disciplinary design projects in science and engineering within a liberal arts setting. This is where the "Sci" in "SciBorg" comes from. Working scientists are constantly tinkering, making predictions, running experiments to test their predictions, and developing models to explain their observations. It is typically hard to replicate this experience in an undergraduate laboratory course. But we believe these robot-based explorations suceed in capturing much of these essential aspects of the scientific processs.

Robots have already proven to be effective pedagogical tools in environments ranging from grade school classrooms to MIT's 6.270 robot design contest. Our goal at Wellesley has been to develop activities and materials that will attract and sustain the interest of students who would otherwise have little opportunity to "do science". We are particularly interested in projects that are appealing to women, who are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields.

Plans For Constructing Your Own SciBorg

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