In addition to seeing the awesome diabetic Jerry Bear, I had the pleasure of running into a small table with the words Staten Island on it. I can feel people grimacing in disgust and feigning a fist pump as they read the name of this misunderstand borough but make no mistake that Staten Island officially has a hackerspace! Make.SI is located in the St. George area and is only a short walk away from the Staten Island ferry. The space is located inside of a quaint garage and has the vibe of a true maker shed complete with tools, miscellaneous parts, and a friendly atmosphere of people who just want to create (also comfy couches!). As a Staten Island native, I am ecstatic that such a place can exist for people to meet and have a collective place to simply hack away. It only made sense that I then had to see the hackerspace when I heard Robotis was going to go there and demo their OLLO educational robotics kit.
Robotis is a robotics company seeking to help everybody answer the question: “What is a robot?” The company provides robotics kits designed for learners of various levels and yes, these are real robotics with some impressive functionality:
The DAR-wIn-OP is an impressive piece of technology that is appropriate for students at the university level but Robotis’ most impressive achievement goes to their children’s robotics kit called OLLO. The OLLO kit was first designed as a way to teach children in South Korea without soldering or exposed electrical components. Robotis has since adapted their program to an American audience and now teaches 40,000 students in after-school programs across the U.S. Everyone knows that young students are nearly impossible to keep engaged and focused but OLLO’s smart design caters to this young and distracted group.
Robotis’ solution for the grades 2- 4 group consists of providing a modular, iterative design for their robotics kit that can be used without a computer. Think Lego but with colorful plastic grids being connected by rivets and powered by motors. I had a blast playing with all the colorful parts and wished dearly that I had such a thing as a child.
What is so excellent about Robotis’ approach with OLLO is that they give children the a system that does not put them at risk of hurting themselves or breaking any of the parts. In other words, it allows them to be safely autonomous when exploring this system. The iterative learning process of OLLO also takes children through learning a wide set of mechanical systems that gradually builds upon itself as it increases in difficulty. OLLO provides a wide range of animals that can be built in this system and the complexity of each animal increases throughout the book, supporting a logical sense of progression and mastery. Robotis even provided some very fascinating survey feedback from students and teachers.
One would expect that teachers believe the value in learning robotics comes from learning the math and science behind the process. However, the #1 value teachers found in using robotics was actually getting the children to be more creative! When the children were surveyed about what they were learning from Robotis, science and math was also the least popular answer. Around 90% of surveyed students believed they could concentrate better in class and 93% of students said that it was helping them actively participate more in class. In other words, OLLO is helping these children become more engaged, more interested, and ultimately feel that what they do has meaning and purpose.
OLLO is supporting the learning of robotics with autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This basis of intrinsic motivation is the perfect starting point to start prospective robotics experts through Robotis’ higher level kits, ultimately reaching the DAR-wIn-OP. Lego was an amazing experience for me as a young child but those pieces ultimately lay in a large plastic bin somewhere. OLLO could conceviably provide the skills to create a machine that actually builds those Lego pieces.