Dancing With Robots

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Dancing with Robots Read the article: Dancing with Robots. Answer questions 1 – 5 at the end of this document. Just for fun: Complete the word search. To read the article online: http://sciencenewsforkids.com/articles/20060510/Feature1.asp Dancing with Robots – Science News for Kids May 10 2006 Sprague's Sprockets, a team of two boys and two girls, waited nervously for its turn at the search-and-rescue station as the RoboCup Junior competition got under way. The students from Adelphi Academy in
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   Dancing with Robots Read the article:  Dancing with Robots . Answer questions 1  –  5 at the end of this document.Just for fun: Complete the word search.To read the article online: http://sciencenewsforkids.com/articles/20060510/Feature1.asp  Dancing with Robots  –  Science News for Kids May 10 2006 Sprague's Sprockets, a team of two boys and two girls, waited nervously for its turn at the search-and-rescuestation as the RoboCup Junior competition got under way.The students from Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., had checked the settings on their robot's infraredsensors. They'd tweaked their computer program and loaded it into the robot. Soon, they would send the robotalong a path with turns, obstacles, and even a ramp. The robot built by the Sprague's Sprocketsteam pauses on the search-and-rescuecourse at the RoboCup Junior competition.  Sarah WebbBut team programmer Monica Furman, 11, seemed concerned. When I asked her whether the team was ready,she answered, No. When I asked her what she was worried about, she said, Everything. As it turned out, shewas right.When the team released its robot at the starting line, it stalled. Although the sensors and wheels appeared to beworking, the robot wouldn't move along the path marked on the course in front of it.The judges gave the Sprockets a few more chances. Nothing worked. It was back to the drawing board. Theprogram itself is so complicated, Furman said. The robot got confused. Computer brain  At RoboCup Junior, an all-day event held in late March at the City University of New York (CUNY) GraduateCenter in Manhattan, Sprague's Sprockets and the other teams worked through the challenges that all robotdesigners face.  The young engineers on each team needed to build a strong, reliable, mobile robot. And they had to give therobot's computer brain the information it would need to make good decisions about when to turn, when to stop,and how to move around an obstacle.  A robot attempts to climb a steep ramp, part of the search-and-rescue course.  Sarah WebbRoboCup Junior is a competitive event that allows students from elementary schools and high schools to testtheir robotics skills in one of three tasks. In addition to navigating a search-and-rescue course, competing robotscan play soccer or take part in a dance contest. All the robots in RoboCup Junior are completely autonomous, which means that there are no remote controls, says Elizabeth Sklar. A professor of computer science at Brooklyn College, she organized the New York event. The kids write the program on their computer, they download it to the robot, and then it's hands off, she says. Search and rescue  After their first attempt at the search-and-rescue course, Sprague's Sprockets took its robot to a nearby roomfilled with long tables. There, teams of kids adjusted wheels and motors and calibrated sensors. They checkedcomputer programs. They made sure that their robots had plenty of battery power.Like many other teams at RoboCup Junior, the Sprockets had split the tasks associated with building their robot.Two team members were responsible for building the robot and the other two were in charge of programming it.To prepare for a second try at the rescue mission, Furman and Anthony Talpak, 12, focused on fixing thecomputer program. Builders Alex Gadas, 10, and Nadia Makos, 12, put in a faster motor.  Nadia Makos (left), Alex Gadas (middle),and Anthony Talpak (right) of Sprague's  Sprockets work on their search-and-rescuerobot.  Sarah WebbOn its second run, the team's robot started up perfectly. It navigated a sharp left turn. It stopped, as it wassupposed to, when it reached a little figure representing a person. But farther along on the course, the robot kepthooking left. And when it tried to mount the ramp, its wheels didn't have enough traction to make the climb.In the end, the course proved too challenging for all but a few high school teams. But Sprague's Sprockets hadbeen working on its robot for only about 2 months. The four team members learned a lot just from being in thecompetition. Soccer mania  While some robots were navigating the rescue course, others were competing in soccer matches. Two teams of two robots face off in a soccer game.  Sarah WebbEach team in robot soccer has two players: a striker and a goalie. Designing these two robots presents specialchallenges for designers. The robots need to respond to one another and to the ball. They need to know whichway to move, where to kick, and how to defend.Many teams built their soccer robots from Lego-based kits that provide parts, motors, a special programmablebrick, and programming software. But RoboCup Junior doesn't require students to use any particular materials. That's one wicked-looking robot, said one kid as he walked by where 16-year-old Nick Oren and JoelHolmes, from Danville, Penn., were adjusting their robot. Their striker looked like a three-tiered Plexiglas cakeloaded with circuitry. Oren had spent 50 hours over more than 4 months building it.     Joel Holmes (left) and Nick Oren with their striker soccer robot.  Sarah WebbIn robot soccer, the ball emits infrared radiation. The robot uses its sensors to find the ball. How a robot kicksthe ball, however, is entirely up to the designer. Oren's robot used puffs of compressed gas, which sent the ballflying across the field.The team's goalie whipped balls out of the way with a giant spinning paddle mounted between two towers of wires and circuits. The goalie was easier to build than the striker, Oren noted. It took him just a snow day and ahalf to complete the robot.Programming the robots was also a challenge. Holmes, the team programmer, continued to adjust the computercommands throughout the competition to improve the robots' ability to respond.The games were exciting, with teams cheering on their robots, lots of fast scoring, and plenty of crashes. In fact,some games were more like demolition derbies  —  with wheels and other parts flying off. Teams often accepted a1-minute penalty to do a quick fix. Robot boogie  Robot dance involves simpler robot programming and design than the other two tasks at RoboCup Junior. But itallows for a wide variety of creativity.Several teams programmed robots to dance to either techno music or hip-hop. A team called the RoboRocketsdanced a jungle boogie along with its robot. A robot geisha built by Alex Doreda and Monica Zhou, both 16,performed an elegant dance perfectly timed to a beautiful Asian melody.
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