Robotics for Inspiring Kids to Learn Programming

When I was a little girl, I wished I could build a robot similar to the robot “Vicky” in Small Wonders TV series. V.I.C.I. (an acronym for Voice Input Child Identicant, pronounced “Vicky”) was a robot in the form of a 10-year-old girl. Vicky could do amazing things like a machine but looked like a human, though without any emotions.

Robotics as a field has evolved so much in the last 20 years that we now have robots that looks like and behave like humans (humanoids). Professor Nadia Thalmann at Nanyang Technological University, my alma mater, has developed a humanoid “Nadine”. Unlike conventional robots, Nadine has her own personality, mood and emotions. She can be happy or sad, depending on the conversation. She also has a good memory, and can recognise the people she has met, and remembers what the person had said before. Similarly, Erica in Japan has been called the “most beautiful and intelligent” android in the world. Erica is built by Hiroshi Ishiguro, professor at Osaka University

For my daughter’s 2nd birthday I built a robot using Ohbot and programmed it to to sing her Happy Birthday.

She was so excited to see a robot that moves its head, eyes, eyelids and lips. The founders of Ohbot, Dan Warner and Mark Walker, have done a fantastic job to create a robot that young kids can program using a graphical interface similar to Scratch. It is indeed a great tool to stretch computation thinking in young kids.

Check out the video of Ohbot singing Happy Birthday! Is it time for a personal robot to inhabit our homes and help us with our lives?