Crazy Robots is a science communication project of the ACIN Institute – Vision for Robotics Group – at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the University of Technology Vienna, funded by FWF Wissenschaftsfonds. The project aims to teach school students robotics from the product development perspective and addresses all students (not only the ones interested in Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics – STEM). A specific feature of this project is the user-centered design approach which focuses on the interests of students and teachers and involves other stakeholders like parents.
The concept is based on the „5-step plan“ and the „project assignment with Mattie robot“. Both concepts and the robot were developed for children. The researchers follow two main goals:
- The project introduces students, teachers (and interested parents) to robotics by offering different perspectives, e.g. not only the technical, but also social and economical perspectives. Furthermore, students are encouraged to find ways to apply their interests and talents in robotics fields.
- Along the way, the project evaluates the effectiveness of the concept and, if given, the applicability of the ideas to real products or services in robotic fields.
The project started on March 2014. After a phase of planning and development pilot schools were contacted. Since October 2014 the implementation is under way. Five high schools from Vienna take part in the project with a second or third class (and their teachers from handiwork or physics).
In detail the project covers following: each class learns about the product development process of robots in three workshops during one semester. Each of these workshops symbolizes an incisive phase of product development.
It starts with ideation in the first workshop „concept“, where students develop their first robot ideas with the help of the 5-step plan – a simple yet effective structure for their ideas – which they convert into a clay model.
For the second workshop „experts“, the class visits the Vision for Robotics Lab and meets robotics experts who talk about their work – computer vision – during a demo. After this, the students receive a project assignment from the CEO of the Crazy Robots Inc. to build a first prototype of a robot for kids. Each student can decide to be in one of the following teams: engineering, human-robot interaction, research&development, design or sales&marketing.
In the third workshop „evaluation“, the different teams reunite and integrate the robots parts. Then, the prototype is evaluated from two perspectives: technical and user. Finally, the product idea is presented to the CEO and the prototype is demonstrated.
Between workshops, teachers have the possibility to discuss lessons learned in class.