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Using robots as an educational resource: a case study

Educational opportunities are very important to the team here at Active Robots and Active8Robots, which is one of the reasons why we invite local students to take part in work experience at our Chilcompton base.

Recently, we’ve had Toby, a student from The Blue School in Wells join us in the work shop. Toby, a Year 10 student, has a keen interest in programming having worked on Python programming during lessons at school and wanted to combine this interest with gaining work place experience and finding out a bit more about robotics and how robots can aid productivity.

His first day in the workshop saw him learning more about our range of Lego Education products, the EV3 products, which are aimed at Key Stage 2 and 3 and come complete with a fully accessible lesson plan available to download onto a tablet.  The lesson plans allow students to build and program a fully functioning robot, able to follow commands without the teacher needing any prior knowledge about coding or robotics, a useful tool in an ever-changing curriculum.

During his time with us, Toby spent a few hours familiarising himself with the EV3 products before building it and then using the iPad lesson plans, programmed it to complete several different tasks, including moving around a course and picking up and transporting objects.

Toby said: “To start with, it is a bit confusing to build, but once you have all the parts ready and it is starting to come together, it’s pretty simple to put together. The Teaching Plans and lessons on the iPad make it really easy to use, it’s completely different to anything I’m used to, but it was easy to pick up.”

As Toby’s main interest is in programming, he found using the EV3 helpful. “It’s good to learn about different types of programming and the Lego Education set is really good, it would be useful to have them in school as a way of finding out more about how to program something.” He said. After a few hours, he was making the course longer and more complicated to challenge the device further, solving any programming problems along the way.

After he had tackled the Lego Mindstorm products, Toby turned his attention to the We Do 2. A similar product, the We Do 2 is aimed at primary school children, it features the same easily accessible lesson plans and requires students to code and programme their designs.  The We Do 2 is more flexible when it comes to the designs and allows pupils to use their creativity while constructing the product.  So naturally, Toby played with a variety of designs programming each one to complete different tools.

He said: “It would be good to start with this in school and then move on to the EV3, these are much easier to put together and program and it gives you more freedom with what you want to build and what you can make it do.”
He didn’t just get to play with Lego Education products all week, though I’m sure people would enjoy work experience a lot more if they could, he also had the opportunity to work with our programmers and engineers on the Sawyer collaborative robot. Although the Sawyer robot makes good production tools, unlike most industrial robots, they are completely safe to use and can work alongside people easily.  Generally, industrial robots need to be caged or closed off in their own space for the safety of human personnel, Sawyer collaborative robots have the advantage of being designed to work alongside people and have the added benefit of built in software, so it can be easily controlled from the robot itself.  Because they are so easy and safe to use, Toby could take part in a brief training session before being allowed to program Sawyer to do a variety of tasks that he had decided on himself.  Sawyer training is something that we offer throughout the year, more details are available on our website, the course is simple to follow and features demonstrations of the different tasks Sawyer can do, as well as the option to program it yourself.

Toby was given a brief over view of the Sawyer robot, which included a few basic tasks commanded directly through the robot’s interface and more complex ones by logging into Sawyer’s system and writing the code through a computer. Within minutes, Toby had the robot fully operational and over the course of the week, tried out several of the EOAT options available, including many tools developed at our own workshop. Speaking of the Sawyer collaborative robots, Toby said: “I’m surprised how easy to use it is, the program is much simpler than others I’ve used at school.”
There are many Sawyer robots being used in universities and schools to help students learning about engineering and programming, which Toby thought was a great use for them.  “They’re so much fun to use,” he said, “We should get one at school to help us learn programming and coding.”

We offer training sessions on the Sawyer robot, even if you’re not on work experience, contact the team to find out more.

Another of our educational tools is the AR10, which is mostly used for research at universities. The AR10 is a fully functional humanoid hand and gives researchers the opportunity to learn more about how the hand moves. Toby spent some time looking at the design of the model before learning how to program the hand to make it move.


The AR10 programming software works in a similar way to ones that Toby had worked with at school, so he had no trouble setting up the hand and programming the fingers to move independently. Toby then got to incorporate what he had learned so far with Sawyer and the AR10 by attaching the hand and programming them both to work together.  The AR10 gives the Sawyer robot more dexterity allowing for more precision when undertaking certain tasks, which is especially useful in an education setting.

Come the end of the week, Toby created his own step by step lesson plan with the EV3, with the hope of taking it back to school to show his classmates at the start of the next term, as well as committing to the idea of pursuing a career in robotics.  Initially, he thought that programming and engineering bots would be a difficult concept, but he found programming much easier than he’d originally thought and enjoyed the atmosphere of the workshop, thanks to the accessibility of the cobots and the Lego Education sets.

For more information about how we can help you with education and research, get in touch with our team.

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