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Smart robots visit DTL

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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Robots are fascinating machines. They assist in intricate surgeries and help build automobiles. They can open doors and run faster than Usain Bolt. Some countries have even welcomed artificial intelligence with open arms and grants of citizenship.

While some may fear that technology is evolving too fast, many children are simply captivated by the possibilities for robots.

On April 25, the Dover Town Library proved to be the perfect place for future programmers with their “Smart Robots for Tomorrow’s Building” program.

The library welcomed Dan Berman, an instructor from the Rhode Island Computer Museum (RICM), and eight students to the workshop in the Community Room, where the students watched videos of autonomous and remote control robots from Boston Dynamics, and then set out to program their own robotic cars.

First, Berman tested the children’s knowledge on the formula for distance and gave them a handful of math problems to solve together, once agreeing that distance equals speed multiplied by time.

Next, as he delivered gave step-by-step directions, the children worked together in teams to open the terminal window on their computers and make the robots talk by entering commands.

Programming, however, is at once both a simple and difficult thing. Many of the children found success on their first tries and had their robot saying silly phrases in both English and Spanish. Programming can become complicated, though, when one makes the tiniest error, such as not capitalizing a letter or forgetting to input a space into the coding; the robot must receive very specific instructions to be able to do its task.

The young programmers quickly mastered the command, and soon went online to a robot controller website. Once they gave the robot directions on the computer, they set it down on the floor and watched it move with the press of a button.

The participants also used Raspberry Pi, a pocket sized computer which helps teach children about programming, to control the robotic cars.

The library will be offering another workshop with RICM in May, which will focus on programming portable microphones to be able to record and modify their voices, and develop their own beat box.

The future of technology still has a long way to go, and these programs ensure that the children of Dover will be a part of that future.

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