Dancing with the robots

robots1An agency of learning & creation
Coding is hard, yet worth it. It teaches us visualization, problem solving, resilience, how to reach out for help, and to borrow (with permission) and remix. Sure, there’s math and logic too. It requires discipline, understanding, and creativity. Anyone, even a robot, can cut and paste snippets of code together. A great coder understands why a challenge needs to be solved and creates an architecture to solve it. From Roomba’s robot vacuums to Tesla’s self driving car, creativity with robots is becoming more popular and commonplace. In HKIS robotics, students dig into the question, “what is a robot.” They design, build, and control their own robot. And as their final assessment, the robot must dance.

Make your robot dance
Dancing is not easy, at least to tech folks. So why make students choreograph a dance for a robot? Turns out, choreography and coding both follow “the path from the conception of what you want to accomplish to the realization” of the code/dance. Apart from the incredible mental dexterity, both require “artistry, insight and creativity.”
[1]Marcus, G. and Davis, E. (2014, June). Do we really need to learn coding. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/do-we-really-need-to-learn-to-code  Oh yeah, and because it’s a lot of fun!

Robots got rhythm
We asked students to choose a piece of music they are passionate about. Music stands at the core of teenage existence right? Change, being misunderstood, rebellion, etc.  The idea was to establish rhythm. Unfortunately, K-pop or Punk does not always code well. Others had more luck with classical pieces. And one analyzed the beat and structure of a piece and modified it for a metal based performer. [2]Mok, J (2016, Dec). Robotics Unit 4: Choreography Final ReflectionPosted on December 14, 2016. Retrieved from http://blog.hkis.edu.hk/wp/200015/category/robotics/

Storytelling
Our goal, tell a story. Students coded movements as seamlessly as possible. They broken down the music, isolated moments into sets of steps, e.g., methods, functions, procedures, and coded accordingly. By listening and stepping through pieces (yes, a a few actually acted out their robot’s movements) coders learned about tone, rhythm, timbre, and form.

Evolution
Coding and robotics are evolving. Yes, we still think of it in terms of algorithms and data structures. Yet, free code libraries make it easy to start. Debugging software helps us troubleshoot our mistakes. Online forums let us seek help. And most important, coding and robotics courses no longer happen in isolation. We provide challenges that cross disciplines. Students discover more, encounter new opportunities, and ultimately learn more. And maybe, just maybe, someone’s resume will list “back up dancer for robot” one day. [3]How to make a robot dance. http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/how-to-make-a-robot-dance

Robot dance party image album!

References   [ + ]

1. Marcus, G. and Davis, E. (2014, June). Do we really need to learn coding. The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/do-we-really-need-to-learn-to-code 
2. Mok, J (2016, Dec). Robotics Unit 4: Choreography Final ReflectionPosted on December 14, 2016. Retrieved from http://blog.hkis.edu.hk/wp/200015/category/robotics/
3. How to make a robot dance. http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/how-to-make-a-robot-dance

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