Students learn about robot technology

Students in two fourth grade classes got the chance recently to interact with a modern robot and learn about the possibilities for robot technology in the future.

On Monday, Feb. 6, “Yoda” and “Natasha”, two humanoid robots from the Capital Region BOCES Northeastern Regional Information Center (NERIC), visited the students to demonstrate the latest in robotics. The visit was organized by Librarian Audrey Maldonado.

Equipped with state-of-the-art motion, vision, tactile and audio capabilities, Yoda and Natasha can be programmed to be autonomous and interactive. NERIC employees Hilary Dee and Colin Strainge are the robots’ handlers, and they travel to schools throughout the area to educate students about robot technology.

“He can almost do anything,” said fourth grader Alexandria Gyurik, explaining the capabilities of the small robots.

“They had them hold hands, walk, sing happy birthday, dance and play air guitar,” said Tobias Hand.

Gyurik and Hand are among the students active in the school’s new Coding Club, which Mrs. Maldonado started this fall. The Coding Club members were interested to see programming in action through the two robots. Each day during recess, club members can use Scratch, a computer program developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to teach students about coding. Students use the program to produce games, animated videos, graphics and more.

“It’s fun. You can create anything,” said club member Maya Maschetti.

Students said during the visit, they discussed future uses for programmable robots like Yoda and Natasha. Students said in the future it’s possible to see humanoid technology in homes, stores, vehicles, hospitals and elsewhere.