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"The home of the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures."


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The USA Will Celebrate National Robotics Week

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In May 2009, top universities and industry leaders appealed to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics to create a “national road-map” for robotics technology. On March 9, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week. This resolution was submitted by U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14), co-chair of the Caucus, and other members.

National Robotics Week (RoboWeek) is organized by iRobot with the support of an Advisory Council, which recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of American innovation, highlights its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education. Robotics is positioned to fuel a broad array of next-generation products and applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, healthcare, national defense and security, agriculture and transportation. At the same time, robotics is proving to be uniquely adept at enabling students of all ages to learn important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts and at inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM fields. RoboWeek is a series of grassroots events and activities during the month of April aimed at increasing public awareness of the strength and importance of the U.S. robotics industry and of the tremendous social and cultural impact that robotics will have on the future.

Initiated in 2010, the inaugural RoboWeek included 50 affiliated events around the country. The following year built on that success to include more than 100 events in 22 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In 2017, RoboWeek included over 300 events in all 50 of the United States.

We welcome all collaborators from industry and academia who would like to join us. Celebrate RoboWeek by hosting an event in your community, sponsoring or attending a local event, or spreading the word on social media.

 

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The Robot Showcase is Coming to the USA

Robot’s Lab Feature a Teacher: Using NAO as a tool for learning and as an adventure program simulator.

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Bob Barboza is an educator, STEM journalists, composer and founder of the Barboza Space Center STEM & STEAM fellowship Program and Kids Talk Radio Science. http://www.barbozaspacecenter.com/  He trains Jr. astronauts, engineers, and scientists for the “Occupy Mars Learning Adventures.” His students and interns are learning robot and satellite design, building, and repair.

Bob also teaches the Summer Barboza Space Center Fellowship Program for the Long Beach Unified School District. He has been using the NAO robot since 2013 when he realized NAO was the tool for him to get kids excited about going to Mars, “NAO has legs, hands, and it’s totally, programmable which makes it the best tool to experiment going to Mars  and excite the students to learn more”

“Every time the students program the NAO Robot they feel amazed and Inspired to do more complex learning with him”. His High Schools students feel ready to work in Engineering programs, the specific projects with the robot last one week. And they really like the fact that they can program NAO and see the results immediately. “Their work is from typing to action,” Bob said. NAO is an actor in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventure simulation program.

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For Bob, the educational and social impact that he has noticed is that his program is appearing at more educational and robot events, and the audience seems to enjoy the special workshops and overall experience. The impact on the community and the rest of the district has been positive. They will participate in two city events centered around letting the community get a deeper understanding of robots and how they are used in education.

Lastly, to Bob, NAO is the best experimental tool to get students around the world excited about working together and studying STEM and STEAM++ project-based learning (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages) as they pursue careers in the Aerospace Industry. He will continue working to interact with more kids and transform the way of learning with NAO.

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Going to the Moon

Op-ed | Moon Direct: How to build a moonbase in four years

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This op-ed originally appeared in the March 26, 2018 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

The recent amazing success of the Falcon Heavy launch offers America an unprecedented opportunity to break the stagnation that has afflicted its human spaceflight program for decades. In short, the moon is now within reach.

Here’s how the mission plan could work. The Falcon Heavy can lift 60 tons to low Earth orbit (LEO). Starting from that point, a hydrogen/oxygen rocket-propelled cargo lander could deliver 12 tons of payload to the lunar surface.

We therefore proceed by sending two such landers to our planned base location. The best place for it would be at one of the poles, because there are spots at both lunar poles where sunlight is accessible all the time, as well as permanently shadowed craters nearby where water ice has accumulated. Such ice could be electrolyzed to make hydrogen-oxygen rocket propellant, to fuel both Earth-return vehicles as well as flying rocket vehicles that would provide the lunar base’s crew with exploratory access to most of the rest of the moon.

The first cargo lander carries a load of equipment, including a solar panel array, high-data-rate communications gear, a microwave power-beaming set up with a range of 100 kilometers, an electrolysis/refrigeration unit, two crew vehicles, a trailer, and a group of tele-operated robotic rovers. After landing, some of the rovers are used to set up the solar array and communications system, while others are used to scout out the landing area in detail, putting down radio beacons on the precise target locations for the landings to follow.

The second cargo lander brings out a 12-ton habitation module, loaded with food, spare spacesuits, scientific equipment, tools, and other supplies. This will serve as the astronauts’ house, laboratory, and workshop of the moon. Once it has landed, the rovers hook it up to the power supply and all systems are checked out. This done, the rovers are redeployed to do detailed photography of the base area and its surroundings. All this data is sent back to Earth, to aid mission planners and the science and engineering support teams, and ultimately forming the basis of a virtual reality program that will allow millions of members of the public to participate in the missions as well.

The base now being operational, it is time to send the first crew. A Falcon Heavy is used to deliver another cargo lander to orbit, whose payload consists of a fully fueled Lunar Excursion Vehicle (LEV). This craft consists of a two-ton cabin like that used by the Apollo-era Lunar Excursion Module mounted on a one-ton hydrogen/oxygen propulsion system filled with nine tons of propellant, capable of delivering it from the lunar surface to Earth orbit. A human-rated Falcon 9 rocket then lifts the crew in a Dragon capsule to LEO where they transfer to the LEV. Then the cargo lander takes the LEV, with the crew aboard, to the moon, while the Dragon remains behind in LEO.

 

How to build a lunar base in four years

After landing at the moon base, the crew completes any necessary set up operations and begins exploration. A key goal will be to travel to a permanently shadowed crater and, making use of power beamed to them from the base, use telerobots to mine water ice. Hauling this treasure back to the base in their trailer, the astronauts will feed the water into the electrolysis/refrigeration unit, which will transform it into liquid hydrogen and oxygen. These products will then be stored in the empty tanks of the cargo landers for future use — primarily as rocket propellant but also as a power supply for fuel cells and a copious source of life-support consumables.

Having spent a couple of months initiating such operations and engaging in additional forms of resource prospecting and scientific exploration, the astronauts will enter the LEV, take off and return to Earth orbit. There they will be met by a Dragon — either the one that took them to orbit in the first place or another that has just been launched to lift the crew following them — which will serve as their reentry capsule for the final leg of the journey back home.

Thus, each mission that follows will require just one $100 million Falcon Heavy launch and one $60 million Falcon 9 launch to accomplish. Once the base is well-established, there will be little reason not to extend surface stays to six months.

Assuming that cost of the mission hardware will roughly equal the cost to launch it, we should be able to create and sustain a permanently occupied lunar base at an ongoing yearly cost of less than $700 million. This is less than four percent of NASA’s current budget — or about a quarter of what is being spent yearly on the agency’s now obsolete Space Launch System program which has been going on for over a decade without producing a rocket.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gets a close look at a recovered Falcon 9 booster during a February visit to Kennedy Space Center, Florida, for the National Space Council’s second public meeting. Credit: NASA
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gets a close look at a recovered Falcon 9 booster during a February visit to Kennedy Space Center, Florida, for the National Space Council’s second public meeting. Credit: NASA

The astronauts will not be limited to exploring the local region around the base. Refueled with hydrogen and oxygen, the same LEV spacecraft used to travel to the moon and back can be used to fly from the base to anywhere else on the moon, land, provide on-site housing for an exploration sortie crew, and then return them to the base. We won’t just be getting a local outpost: we’ll be getting complete global access to an entire world.

Currently, NASA has no such plan. Instead it is proposing the build a lunar orbiting space station dubbed the Deep Space Gateway. This boondoggle will cost several tens of billions of dollars, at least, and serve no useful purpose whatsoever – except perhaps to provide a launch manifest for the Space Launch System. We do not need a lunar-orbiting station to go to the moon. We do not need such a station to go to Mars. We do not need it to go to near-Earth asteroids. We do not need it to go anywhere. If we do waste our time and money building it, we won’t go anywhere.

If you want to get to the moon, you need to go to the moon. We now have it in our power to do so. Let’s seize the time.

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and the Mars Society. An updated edition of his book, “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” was recently published by the Free Press.


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Robots in the Classrooms Around the World

In Finnish experiment, robots teach language and math classes

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Students use a language trainer robot, Ellias, during their lesson at the school in Tampere, Finland March 27, 2017.

Credit: Attila Cser/Reuters

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riikka Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The math robot — dubbed OVObot — is a small, blue machine around 10 inches high and resembles an owl, and was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be trialled for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years, but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3D printing are allowing smaller start-up companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.


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Robots in the Classroom

In Finnish experiment, robots teach language and math classes

fins.JPG

robot

Students use a language trainer robot, Ellias, during their lesson at the school in Tampere, Finland March 27, 2017.

Credit: Attila Cser/Reuters

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riikka Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The math robot — dubbed OVObot — is a small, blue machine around 10 inches high and resembles an owl, and was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be trialled for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years, but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3D printing are allowing smaller start-up companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.


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Where are all the great robot designers?

36 Student Teams Roll on to URC 2018 Finals

From a record field of 95 student teams, the University Rover Challenge (URC) has announced the 36 team finalists from 10 countries which have been selected to compete May 31 – June 2 at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah.  [To watch the official video announcement (produced courtesy of Protocase), please click here.]

Teams previously passed a Preliminary Design Review milestone, and most recently passed an extremely competitive System Acceptance Review milepost. Vehicles competing at the URC finals will face four extremely difficult tasks involving their Mars rovers: 1) The Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, 2) The Equipment Servicing Task, 3) The Autonomous Traversal Task, and 4) The Science Cache Task.  These events challenge teams to design and build highly capable robotic systems able to traverse extreme and aggressive terrain, perform maintenance on critical field equipment and conduct meaningful field science.

Now in its 12th year, URC has challenged hundreds of teams and thousands of students from around the world through this unique multi-disciplinary educational event.  In recent years URC’s parent organization, the Mars Society, has formed the Rover Challenge Series (RCS), which features similar competitions around the world aimed at developing the next generation of talented and ambitious leaders in engineering, science and space exploration.

The Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to URC’s primary sponsor – Protocase – for once again producing this year’s video announcement. As always, we would also like to thank Kevin Sloan, our long-time URC Director, and his staff of volunteers for all of their hard work in planning and coordinating this important scientific competition.

A full review of this year’s University Rover Challenge will be presented at the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention (August 23-26) in Pasadena, California. Register onlinetoday to take advantage of ‘Early Bird’ ticket rates.