“Rusty” the Robot

The NAO Robot has been a hot topic since our recent STEAM Fair. The NAO is an adorable, 23-inch tall, programmable, humanoid robot from Aldebaran Robotics. This incredible little guy can walk, talk, see you, hear you, and feel your touch. Aldebaran designed NAO to be “a friendly companion around the house”. Right now, he is a star in computer science classes from elementary schools to colleges as well as computer programmers.

People have programmed the NAO to do an inordinate number of tasks – play Candy Crush, draw what he sees, jump into ball pits, drive motorized cars, dance to Single Ladies, and even play soccer with a team of NAOs. The capabilities are only limited by programmers’ imaginations with 2 different programming options – the Choreographe software or the NAOqi SDK (software development kit) which is compatible with Java, JavaScript, C++, Python, MATLAB, Urbi, .Net, and other robotics platforms.

We were fortunate to have “Rusty” the NAO as a house guest the weekend of the STEAM Fair. Playing with him was a lot of fun. With a free trial version of the Choreographe software, we programmed Rusty to follow basic commands and discovered some of his incredible pre-installed behaviors like telling the the story of Star Wars a la C3-PO and doing Tai Chi Chuan and push ups. My daughters developed their computer programming and logic sequencing skills as they programmed him to do many tasks including stand up, wave, and say things like “Erika is my favorite person. You go girl!” In the short time we had Rusty, we saw the learning potential and educational benefits.

Unfortunately, the NAO is still a bit pricey for personal use, but like most technology, the price has been coming down. A few years ago, the NAO was the price of a new mid-sized car. Now it’s more along the lines of a used car (in the $7,000 to $10,000 price range). Hopefully, it will become even less expensive in the future. In the meantime, you can download a free trial of the Choreographe software where you can program a virtual robot.

If this is something you’d like to see in your school for your children, you should let your teachers, administrators, and Board of Education know. If you’re lucky enough to have one in your school, please tell us about your experiences!


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