AUTOMATING THE PREPARATION AND THE EXECUTION OF PHYSICS EXPERIMENTS INTO A ROBOTIC LABORATORY
In this paper we analyze the architectural elements of an automatic intelligent system based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), specifically designed for setting up and performing Physics experiments, into a robotic school laboratory. We also describe, the features of the most well-known robotic systems available in the market and we note their defeciencies or handicaps, regarding the convience that can provice, focusing on cases that their users are individuals with kinetic disabilities.
In their majority, robotic arms own sufficient characteristics, that allow them to execute precise 3D movements, ability that proves them ideal for usage on performing mechanics or electric circuits experiments. During those experiments, the robotic arms can be controlled through special control devices or even through appropriately developed computer system.
In true conditions, setting up an experiment can be an extremely time-consuming process, especially when an experiment should be accurately performed several times, in order for the user to collect useful and correct results. In many cases, that accuracy is actually eliminated when the setup of the experiment is being done by a human. This problem is even more significant when that human is an individual with kinetic disabilities.
The design and development of an ICT system, that is able to automatically setup and perform one or more experiments, allows the acceleration of the learning progress, plus it saves an important amount of educational time, that would otherwise be consumed into scientifically worthless experiments, assuming that the necessary accuracy is rather to difficult to be achieved by a human hand. Moreover, the usefulness of the proposed system is extended in cases that too many users have to perform an experiment, but a small number of robotic arms are available, since the usage of the system can stretch the time need for the preparation of each experiment.
Regarding its architecture, the proposed system consists of at least one robotic arm, a computer card for controlling the robotic array, a database system, some Radio Frequency IDs (RFIDs) and the appropriate software for controlling/moving the robotic arm and describing the experiment parts.
Firstly, the user (in most cases the teacher) has to describe the rules and the parts of the experiment, using the pseudocode development enviroment of the system. That description is stored into the database and can be retrieved anytime in the future, in order to be used for preparing an experiment. After that, the ICT system reads the described instructions and tranfer them to the robotic arm(s), which chooses the correct objects through reading their RFIDs and places them into specific positions into a 3D mapped area of a table. In the next step, the user can choose between the options to let the system execute the experiment, to take control of the robotic arm or to assign the experiment's execution to another user (e.g a student).
Information and Communication Technologies and Robotics applications can be an important help on teaching physics and respective sciences, since they can provide significant autonomy and accuracy. The first results collected from the pilot operation of the proposed system show its usefulness in the most of the cases that it was used.