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Apr 23 2008   9:27AM GMT

Better Education Through Open Source Robots

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Heather Johnson is guest blogging at WhatIs.com this week. Heather is a freelance writer, as well as a monthly contributor for OEDb, a site that helps students select among accredited online schools. She invites comments and freelancing job inquiries at heatherjohnson2323@gmail.com.

There has been a lot of talk about open source hardware lately and its potential effects on research and education. ETech 2008 showcased many examples of open hardware and offered an insightful presentation [PDF] to those who are new to the emerging technology. Likewise, popular sites like Slashdot and bloggers like Scobleizer have been discussing the growing movement.

The increasing popularity of open source software has already had a tremendous influence on education and the world as a whole. Not only are many schools now making the switch to open source programs, leading universities like UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon are involved with developing large open source software projects.

A Scribbler Robot with BluetoothHowever, we have yet to see open hardware really take off. Ryan Singel of Wired feels that 2008 could be the year and I second that opinion. Leading the pack seems to be open source robotics, which has been embraced by several major universities.

Just last month, Willow Garage’s Steve Cousins gave a keynote speech at ETech 2008 about open source personal robots, which has brought more attention to the subject. Willow Garage is a privately funded lab that experiments with various robotics platforms.

This open source robotics movement can be felt on many college campuses as well. Carnegie Mellon, which I previously stated is involved with open source software, is also building OS personal robots. The university has recently formed a joint project called the Institute for Personal Robots in Education (IPRE).

The IPRE is a joint project between Georgia Tech and Bryn Mawr College, with sponsorship provided by Microsoft Research. Its purpose is to help advance robotics research and computer science education. The IPRE is currently selling open source robot kits, which are geared toward educators and can be integrated with computer education curricula.

Instructions can be found RobotEducation.org if you are interested in building your own educational robot.

[Image credit: RobotEducation.org]

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