[Edu-sig] Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sat Jun 25 19:52:43 CEST 2011

Fun to enhance robotics threads with science fiction, to give
it more texture.

My Martian Math class last summer focused on Python,
but also the Mars probes (watched some Youtubes [1]),
sometimes called robots, though remotely piloted, not
autonomous (the case with many robots, including bomb
removal and undersea oil work).

The robots in War of the Worlds ("tripods") were actually
piloted as well, and were defended against only ineffectually
by humans (Tom Cruise included), eventually succumbed
to the "immune system" of Gaia herself.  The alien pilots
had no immunity to Earthian germs (why should they?).[2]

Having an object oriented language at one's elbow is really
handy, as then it becomes easier to think in terms of
attributes and behaviors (methods) as discrete, well-
defined Python modules.  Although hardware is wonderful
when you can afford it, a "sensor" in software might still
be modeled.

My Tractor class has a Sensor subclass that "reads" the
8 cells in its neighborhood (N NW W SW S SE E NE).
This would be ASCII bytes in a 2d array (a Farm object).
A Tractor is nothing more than a simplified Turtle, exploring
a new space of metaphors (there's also a fuel burning
aspect -- Tractors run out of gas, much as robots may
run out of battery power unless recharged).[3][4]


[1]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/satacad/martianmath/mm22.html
[2]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/satacad/martianmath/mm30.html
[3]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/python/OST/lifegame.py
[4]  http://www.4dsolutions.net/ocn/python/OST/farmworld.py
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