BETT 09, 14-17 Jan, Olympia

The couple of hours I spent at BETT yesterday didn’t really do it justice – if you haven’t been, BETT is a huge annual technology in education expo at Olympia, London.

Here are my highlights:

I had a great chat with the Q4 Go-Robo studio folk – they have created a programming system/interface that enables students to create time-line applications for WowWee robots – you can also run these so that you have multiple robots operating in sync. This technology encourages school children to get interested in programming. The GRIDscript programming language is a bit like LOGO or visual basic.

What particularly interested me was a project involving the Go-Robo Choreographer kit with a ‘Femisapien‘ female robot – basically, there aren’t many ‘female’ robots in existence and so this was perfect for a project that they told me about that involved girls from Milford School to customise robots using the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing brand as inspiration.

The choreographer system allowed the girls to write dance routines – the robots memory can hold up to 80 commands for dance sequences, the girls also designed outfits and characters for their robots. They made a great video about their experiences – do have a look, its fab!

UPDATE: a really interesting Robotspodcast with Mark Tilden, designer of many WowWee biomorphic robot toys such as Femisapien – he has a few things to say about technology and the female of the species as well as insights into what’s round the corner for robotics, inspiring girls, tinkering & Maker Faires.

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I really liked the POB robot maker, as with the various servomotors and interfaces you can make many combinations of robot in various mods such as POB-eye, NXT Lego 12C and can manage USB, Bluetooth ports. The robots can be programmed with RISBEE graphical dev software and C which compiles with AVR studio for advanced users. I saw the robots using detect sensors and was really pleased that you can even get an Arduino kit for them.

Another robotic kit that interested me was Robobuilder – this kit doesn’t require any interest in programming as you can download motion modules to get it to run movement sequences. You can get an educational kit for it for more advanced motion control study. I guess the hook for this is that you can build your robot from a kit and indulge in community chat and sharing of ideas.

UPDATE: should mention that I saw the robots in the two above paragraphs on the Robosavvy stall.
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I enjoyed my visit the Lego Mindstorms education stand – I saw some lovely robots to use with ICT, science and maths learning. There’s a really nice choice of sensors you can put together: eg temperature, touch, movement, accelerometer, etc with a NXT 32-bit brick to run commands in lessons. Really wish we had this stuff when I was at school to build and encourage interest in science & programming as it’s so engaging and motivational.

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Had a good chat with the Unimatic people – I’m fascinated by 3D printer tech and it was great to have some people at BETT to indulge me in chat and ask questions. The whole subject is really rather intriguing and I love some of the more futuristic predictions involving nanotechnology & grey goo, but for today I’m just happy to poke and prod and look at rapid prototyping objects such as tiny scale cars that even have wheel axel space without being drilled.

I had a look at a couple of kits that are really quite reasonably priced, eg the RapMan: 750UKP for a 3D printer assembly kit and 20UKP per kilo of the polyethylene (or other materials) that is pumped and weaved out of a gun-like nozzle to make up the prototypes. This kit is aimed at students for printing their designs and can even print some of it’s own replacement parts.

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Other cool stuff:

* Assistive technologies such as new keyboard designs with www.microlinkpc.co.uk

* Really fast, portable OCR technology and braille keyboards

* Games based revision and assessment – motivating students to learn and revise: www.iamlearning.co.uk

* Interactive whiteboard technologies: www.mimio.com

* Dance mat based exercise routines (just like DDR) for the classroom http://www.cyber-coach.co.uk – actually asked my personal trainer a year ago if we could have this stuff at our gym, to no avail ;-)

* Video and broadcast technology – encouraging learning experiences in front of and behind the camera. Also loads of neat design and presentation applications.

I missed tons of stuff, but as ever it’s so difficult to view and take in everything at BETT in one session – though I really enjoyed what I saw.

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4 responses to “BETT 09, 14-17 Jan, Olympia

  1. Also saw the Cyber Coach mats and their virtual class instructors, shouldn’t all kids get the chance to do fun excercises like these… but can schools afford them ?

  2. The education robotics systems POB, Robobuilder, Bioloid, MechRC, Robonova, OLLO and Arduino are sold in UK by RoboSavvy (http://robosavvy.co.uk). I guess it was a bit confusing with the different brochures and all the robot brands at our stand.

  3. Thanks for the positive response to our kit (the RapMan sold through Unimatic which is a branch from the RepRap project at Bath University – see http://www.reprap.org). We were very pleased with the response we had at the show and loved speaking to everyone about our machine.

    Thanks again,

    Iain Major

  4. @Brian – not sure if all schools can afford the dance mats – I don’t know how much they cost, but I think it’s a great idea to try fun alternatives to the usual PE lesson.

    @Limor – thanks, have added a link.

    @Iain – cheers for the link, I enjoyed reading RepRap :-)

    R

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