TEACHING PHYSICS TO INDIVIDUALS WITH KINETIC DISABILITIES USING ROBOTICS: A-STATE-OF-THE-ART

Recently, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), along with Robotics invaded into the education area and especially the area of experimental Physics. The exceptional convenience that they gradually began to offer, proved to be significantly useful as it allowed individuals even with severe kinetic disabilities to successfully perform a large number of different experiments, to observe the results, to extract important conclusions and finally to sufficiently conceive the fundamental principals and concepts of Physics or other relevant sciences.
Laboratories with robotic equipment that can be controlled by a user through a great range of controlling devices such as joysticks, touch pads, pressure / touch sensors, etc, have been established in schools and special education units all over the world. The robotic equipment (arrays, arms, etc) is usually combined with subsidiary communication and computer systems, in order to achieve the most detailed recording of an experiment's results or to provide remote user control functionalities.
The use of a robotic laboratory by many different individuals, who may have considerable differences in their kinetic disabilities, demands many arrangements and time-consuming procedures regarding the preparation of each experiment, especially as long it concerns calibration of the controlling devices calibration, so that they would correspond to the true needs and abilities of each user. Moreover, the high cost of implementing such laboratories, usually restricts their existence into organized special education school units, along with a large number of potential users.
In the present work we attempt to highlight the state-of-art technologies that can respectably support execution of Physics experiments in a robotic laboratory, we reveal some advantages or deficiencies of each technology and finally, we analyze our proposal, which exploits a wide range of features that originate from the most recent advancements in the ICT field.

In particular, in order to confront the problems that were mentioned above, we propose an expansion of the controlling system of a robotic arm by embedding a database system, which should store all the necessary data, along with the controlling device(s) adjustments for each user that were produced into the calibration phase. The sum of the stored information of a user will constitute his/her profile, which can be retrieved from the database each time the user enters the system. In this way, the calibration phase can be skipped and the user may use the robotic arm immediately, in order to perform an experiment. The whole process is supported by a middleware, which is responsible both for the management of the user profiles and for providing the adjustments to the controlling devices and the robotic arm.

The proposed design of the system advances the reliability, the ease of use and the ability of easy expansion and the in dependence of any other specific software or hardware.