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Can an Led-Filled "robot Garden" Make Coding More Accessible?

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A robotic garden demonstrates distributed algorithms via more than 100 origami robots that can crawl, swim, and blossom like flowers.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a tablet operated system that illustrates distributed algorithms via robotic sheep, origami flowers, and robotic ducks.

Credit: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a tablet-operated system that illustrates distributed algorithms via robotic sheep, origami flowers that can open and change colors, and robotic ducks that fold into shape by being heated in an oven.

The researchers say the system serves as a visual embodiment of their latest work in distributed computing, as well as an aesthetically pleasing way to get more young students, especially girls, interested in programming. "It's meant to be a launchpad for schools to demonstrate basic concepts about algorithms and programming," says MIT researcher Lindsay Sanneman.

The system is equipped with 16 tiles that are connected via microcontrollers and programmed with search algorithms that explore the space in different ways. "The garden tests distributed algorithms for over 100 distinct robots, which gives us a very large-scale platform for experimentation," says MIT professor Daniela Rus.

The researchers also developed eight distinct varieties of origami flowers that are embedded with printable motors, enabling them to blossom in multiple ways. The robotic sheep were developed with traditional print-and-fold origami techniques, and the magnet-powered ducks started as two-dimensional paper prints that were heated in an oven, causing them to automatically fold into shape.

"We're hoping that rapid fabrication techniques will continue to improve to the point that something like this could be easily built in a standard classroom," says MIT researcher Joseph DelPreto.

From MIT News
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