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November 27, 2012

There’s a bot for that

Mt. Tabor students build robots for everyday jobs

NEW ALBANY — The inventors served as the curators, showing off the latest in convenience technology ranging from mechanical homework helpers to high tech pooper scoopers.

Students at Mount Tabor Elementary School built their own electronic helpers for the school’s annual Robot Museum on Nov. 19. Third-graders built robots out of household items that would take care of tasks they either needed help with or just plain didn’t like doing.

In the case of Michael Mingus, a third-grader, he built Football 101, a robot that he said would help him and other football players hone their skills and learn more about the game.

“It could probably help a lot of football players and schools that have sports because it can prepare you for a game,” Mingus said.

He said the football player side of his robot had various difficulty settings depending on the level of the player, and referee on the other side knew every in and out of the rule book.

Students didn’t just build robots, though. Younger students visited each third-grade classroom to see the robots and hear their creators explain their purposes and maybe even get a demonstration of its abilities.

Cindy Himburg, one of the third-grade teachers, said students spent a week learning about famous inventors like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs before building their own robots.

She said students learned how many experiments inventors had to run with their inventions to make sure everything worked correctly. But she also said just building the robots was something fun for students to do.

“We don’t really give them much direction,” Himburg said. “They just go home and just use their imaginations. The parents get involved and it’s just so different from what we’ve had them do day after day.”

She said students were encouraged to use whatever they could find in their homes to build robots without having to spend any money, though occasionally, someone may have to buy tape or another essential item.

Sarah Starkey, another third-grader, built a large-scale model of her robot, Growl. Though it was still small enough to fit on her desk, she said Growl would be much smaller.

Her robot, she said, was designed for home protection by making growling animal sounds at intruders.

“We don’t need to feed it and it doesn’t need to go outside, so it might be cheaper to keep than a dog,” Starkey said.

Teshea Barbee, a third-grade teacher, said students sometimes build robots because they don’t want to wash dishes or other chores, but their robots could serve as an embodiment for where they might need some help.

“They don’t like doing their homework or cleaning their room or picking up their dog’s poop,” Barbee said. “But I hope that they learn that there is a solution to their problems, and if they have trouble with something, they can see what they need help with.”

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