Mike Rubenstein wants to put robots in the classroom.
Working with two other researchers at Harvard University, Rubenstein recently created what they call AERobot, a bot that can help teach programming and artificial intelligence to middle school kids and high schoolers. That may seem like a rather expensive luxury for most schools, but it’s not. It costs just $10.70. The hope is that it can help push more kids into STEM, studies involving science, technology, engineering, and math.
The tool is part of a widespread effort to teach programming and other computer skills to more children, at earlier stages. It’s called the code literacy movement, and it includes everything from new and simpler programming languages to children’s books that teach coding concepts.
Rubenstein’s project grew out of the 2014 AFRON Challenge, held back in January, which called for researchers to design low-cost robotic systems for education in the developing world. Part of Harvard’s Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, Rubstein has long studied swarm robotics, which aims to create herds of tiny robots that can behave as whole, and he ended up adapting one of his swarm systems in order to build AERobot. It’s a single machine—not a swarm bot—but it’s built from many of the same inexpensive materials.