What a thriller: Robots make computer programming come to life

Robots aren’t just something you see in movies anymore. They’re in the hands of students in some HISD classrooms, and they’re changing the way students are learning about computer programming.

The district’s Career and Technical Education Department recently purchased six NAO Humanoid Robots that can do just about anything you can imagine – even dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Teachers at Eastwood Academy, Reagan, Sam Houston, Scarborough, Waltrip, and Westbury high schools went through training before the robots are put into classrooms.

“They’re going to use (the robots) to bring computer programming and robotics to life,” said Drew Thurman, manager of Career and Technical Education.

The hands-on experience will allow what students imagine to become a reality.

“You can program it to do anything you want,” said Robert Marshall, an NAO robot trainer. “You can literally ask it to walk from point A to point B, you can have it dance, you can have it sing a song, you can ask it to do a particular task, even play a game.”

The robots have an extensive sensor network that includes two cameras which allow facial recognition. The robots can be programmed to know a person’s name and to carry on a scripted conversation. Each is equipped with four microphones, sonar rangefinder, two infrared emitters and receivers, an inertial board, nine tactile sensors, and eight pressure sensors. Its communication devices include a voice synthesizer, LED lights and two high-fidelity speakers.

 

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