A. Cardoso1, A. Sousa2, H. Ferreira2

Robotics teaching is a steady trend in education. It allows for visual learners to easily understand programming and has a number of interesting side effects such as fostering math and physics.
Although simulation is possible, advances in gaming make it even more special to have real mechanical devices in the classroom to “learn by doing” the real thing.

Schools are seeking to adopt robotics, curricula are being changed, but there are difficulties of several types. Robots are now less expensive, but they are always expensive to buy for a large classroom and require some maintenance (batteries, etc). It is challenging to have a room with enough robots for large classes, even if they are in small teams. Along with the robots themselves, programming stations are required that are also not inexpensive and some solutions require a full PC for programming each robot.

On the side of the students, difficulties in learning robotics include the programming style, which often varies from robot to robot, and relating the several types of knowledge needed.

There are a few approaches to robot behaviour definition (that is, robot programming) such as general programming (imperative) approach, data flow approach, reactive approach, subsumption architecture, just to name some of the most used. The several approaches (programming paradigms) have different difficulties, limitations and strengths, thus making each approach interesting to different students of different age groups.

The proposed system uses tangible tiles to define the way a robot behaves in a very open and flexible manner. The tiles are adequate for team cooperation, do not need a dedicated PC and are flexible to several paradigms of programming the behaviour of the robot. The same tiles are usable for several robots on the market and different approaches for different age ranges.

Technically, the system is based on any photo (example, from a smartphone) of the tiles that after processing is sent to the robot as automatically as possible. Depending on the robot itself, most frequently no PC is required at all and the camera can be shared along the classroom.

Results from a small experience with 14 students will be shown in the full article and students report a pleasant learning experience.

It is expected that the proposed system will improve the difficulties of the schools and improve the overall learning experience.