The art of racing robots at the Mattapoisett Library

By Andrea Ray | Jul 23, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray The participants in the Mattapoisett Library's robotics program lined up their robots for a race.

Mattapoisett — At the Mattapoisett Library, the future is today...and the future is robots.

Five children got up close and eye-to-eye with robots named Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey and Happy during the library's robot programming event on Friday, July 21.

The robotics program was offered as a collaboration between the Mattapoisett Library and the Rhode Island Computer Museum. The museum recently began offering the smart robotics course to appeal to the next generation of engineers and scientists, and introduce basic concepts of robotics.

Rhode Island Computer Museum employee Thi Sarkis was on hand to teach the children how to use the robots and how to input lines of computer code into Raspberry Pi, the miniature computer that controlled them.

Raspberry Pi, according the Rhode Island Computer Museum, was developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools. The Raspberry Pi computer is a miniature phone-based computer, which can do many of the same things as a traditional computer, like word-processing or playing games and video.

Firstly, the children programmed their robots to move according to a remote control, before moving on to make it automatically perform squares and circles. When William Walker couldn't get his robot to perform a circle correctly, Sarkis told him more speed might be necessary. "Did you want to go faster?" she asked.

"Yes!" came the enthusiastic reply.

"I shouldn't even have to ask," Sarkis laughed.

The children had particular fun teaching the robots to speak. "I'm going to teach mine to say 'I love turtles'," said Austin Scully gleefully as he input code into the computer. When he was successful, Austin was amused by something else - the robots, with software developed in the United Kingdom, spoke with an English accent.

At the end of the program, the children raced their robots around a set path as a race, which involved many figure-eights and robots facing the wrong way. Nevertheless it was a successful event, as several students expressed an interest in working on their own robots in the future.

Chaz Aguiar directs his robot. (Photo by: Andrea Ray)
William Walker inspects his robot before beginning to program it. (Photo by: Andrea Ray)
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