Students enrolled in Introduction to Robotics at Berea College have learned to create and program their very own robots.

On Tuesday, the students visited the Child Development Lab (CDL) at Berea College to introduce robotic concepts to 3, 4 and 5-year-olds.

“The students have been learning how to program robots and broader issues of robotics,” said Jan Pearce, professor of Introduction to Robotics. “This is an opportunity for them to share their knowledge with the kids and for the kids to have some hands on experience.”

As part of the robotics class, students formed into teams of two or three and designed a robot that responds to individual commands through touch, sound or sonar.

The teams demonstrated their robots to the children at the CDL, allowing each child an opportunity to test the commands.

One robot was programmed to turn in a triangle or square and to stop when a hand was placed in front of its sensor.

Another robot responded to loud noises.

Each robot was programmed to react differently to varying commands.

To become accustomed to teaching robotics to someone that does not understand the technology or terminology, the college students taught the younger children by using language easy for them to understand, said Pearce.

Students at the CDL have been learning about robotics by studying NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, which will send a rover to Mars in 2011.

Attached to the rover will be a microchip with all the names of students that are in the program.

Each of the CDL students received a certificate from NASA stating that their name has been entered in the microchip.

The CDL has made an effort to work closely with Berea College, giving the children a chance to learn from college students, said Keila Thomas, director of the CDL.

Art and music students previously visited the CDL.

For the college students, it was an opportunity to teach the lessons they have learned this semester.

“We’re just trying to open them up to robotics,” said freshman T.J. Luster, a computer and information science major. “What they see of robots is only on T.V., so it gives them a first-hand experience.”

Kim Bostic, a junior psychology major, has an interest in artificial intelligence and said her hope is that the robotics class is helpful in leading her down that path.

Tim Mandell can be reached at tmandell@richmondregister.com or 623-1669 ext. 6696.

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