First Grade and Robots Posted on May 24, 2007 by Dave Fowler

Yesterday was my last day at IBM, and today I went back to first grade. To most people that might sound backwards. Personally I don't care what it sounds like, I think its the way to go.

My sister is a first grade teacher and asked me to come into class and demonstrate my robot (yes I'm that cool) and I also decided to bring in an old computer to show them what the inside looks like. They'd apparently been bugging her to have me visit ever since she told them that I had a robot. I knew coming in that they'd be horribly disappointed. They were all imagining some android like warrior to follow me in the class and crush a few cars for them. Instead they see my simple hobby machine that's only slightly more impressive and considerably more expensive than a remote control car.

Here's a picture of it, though don't let it fool you. As of yet the laptop isn't hooked up to actually control the robot (largely do to OS compatibility issues) and the arm that looks like its about to plug the robot has proven, after several cracked outlet plates, to be incapable of the task. The goal of the shown robot is to eventually (when I have a year of free time) be the first self surviving, or 'wild' robot. I've written a vision algorithm that detects outlets, what's left is the laptop to robot controls connection and significant work on the mechanics of the arm.

Jared Robot

Anyway, it was a great time, and they seemed to learn a lot about robotics and computers. I gave them a very very high level explanation of how video games work, from putting those round things in to what you see on your screen. I think a few of them kind of got it. They were certainly very interested and thought it especially exciting that my robot was named Jared. I got about a million questions some of the highlights were "can it eat my breakfast?", "can it do my laundry?", "how big can you make a robot?", "can you make one as big as a car?", "can you make one as big as a bus?", "can you make one as big as a school?", "my dad can fix stuff really good." They have a lot of fun in first grade. I shouldn't have left, I should have just gone with them to recess.