The Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) is planning to hold an annual robotics competition among the country’s science high schools. The competition would allow science high school students to show their prowess in creating a robot, in the same manner as "Larry Labuyo," the robot created by a group of students from the Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, which joined the prestigious FIRST Robotics competition in Hawaii and Atlanta, Georgia in the US. The competition is set to be officially announced sometime in June or July, in time for the upcoming National Science and Technology Week (NSTW). SEI Director Ester Ogena said the robotics competition is aimed at encouraging young science high school students to pursue technical courses related to the creation of robotics, particularly in the areas of software programming, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Ogena said the Philppine robotics team recently sent abroad with “Larry Labuyo” are examples of young people working together to build a complex machine. “Obviously, our intention is to develop communities among our students.” Ogena said the SEI is stil finalizing the guidelines for the competition. She said that the development kit for each school participating in the competition would have to be composed of parts mostly purchasable from local shops. “We’re still working on what the development kit would have. They won’t have to be expensive but they have to be workable,” Ogena said.
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By Andrew Beatty Agence France-Presse CROFTON--A robot named Cosmo has become six-year-old Kevin Fitzgerald's unlikely ally in his uphill everyday battle with developmental difficulties. At a strip mall clinic in suburban Maryland, Kevin is at the unlikely intersection of new efforts to treat symptoms of autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disorders with robotics and computer work. Here, he scrambles onto a swivel chair to examine a half-metre- (1.6-feet-) tall robot on the table in front of him. Prodding four brightly-coloured buttons near the robot's feet, he directs a cartoon version of the machine around a computer monitor, furtively glancing up at the real thing for encouragement. Kevin showed the first signs of learning difficulties when he was 18 months old, and was later diagnosed with developmental dyspraxia. "It is like having a stroke," his mother Patty Fitzgerald said. "His brain is intact, but his body doesn't do what he wants it to do." Some specific skills -- like pronouncing consonants, matching cause and effect or grasping relative concepts such as better and faster -- can be depressingly difficult for him to master. But for the last year, a small blue-and-yellow android called Cosmo has offered some hope. Programmed to respond to body movements, voice activation, or the four-button-panel dubbed "mission control," Cosmo is designed to teach basic behavioural and physical skills. It can gesticulate, reproduce phrases and move around when prompted. It also cheers and gives clues to help children complete specific tasks. As a piece of engineering, Cosmo is unspectacular. It has just nine moving joints -- a number that might underwhelm robotics buffs. But Cosmo's potential to help children has caught the attention of Minnesota's globally-acclaimed Mayo Clinic. There investigators are conducting a second phase medical trial to see if the robot can help kids with cerebral palsy develop movements -- such as twisting the wrist -- more quickly than traditional methods. "It is going extremely well," said Krista Coleman-Wood, a physical therapist at Mayo's biomechemical and motion analysis laboratory. Wearing a glove fitted with sensors, children are asked to make movements that copy and are copied by Cosmo, building up muscle tissue and improving motor planning. According to Coleman-Wood, it is too early to say if children make more progress with the robot than through traditional physical therapy, but fun levels are clearly in the robot's favour. "Imagine lifting and moving your wrist repeatedly, it gets boring very quickly. (with Cosmo) there is cognitive engagement, the children are engaged," Coleman-Wood said. Cosmo's designers hope a successful trial will mark a huge leap forward for robot-aided therapy. The robot's inventor, Corinna Lathan, believes it can vastly improve on traditional and computer-based learning, serving simultaneously as a toy, a friend and a teacher. "Manipulating a mouse or a keyboard is not the same as directly manipulating your environment," said Lathan, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology who also plans experiments for NASA through her research and development firm AnthroTronix. "There is a lot of research that indicates if you want to learn social skills or spatial skills, that interacting in a three dimensional space, not just on flat screen or computer (is helpful). "With the robot you can actually move from cause and effect to other developmental skills, you can move it round something, you can move it faster." According to Lathan, Cosmo can also help improve behavioural problems, such as lack of focus, which frequently accompany learning disabilities. "The idea is that rather than hiding in front of a computer you are actually starting to interact with a peer and the hope is that that starts to transfer to other peers, human peers -- adults, care givers, parents," she said. Five years after Kevin started therapy, Patty Fitzgerald says the last 12 months with Cosmo have proven revolutionary. "When we first started there would be times when I could not get him out of the car if he knew it would be something challenging. Now if I mention that Cosmo is going to be here, or the computer, he comes running down the hallway." According to Fitzgerald, Kevin's progress could allow him to continue to attend conventional schools, even if some adaptations are necessary. "We were expecting improvement in behaviour, being able to follow the rules, being able to share and take turns, but he has picked up some reading skills and some counting skills and he can write his name. "Family life is much better, we can go to a restaurant because we can discus the fact that you don't just throw your silverware on the floor, you do use a spoon instead of your hands," she added. And her long-term goals are now a bit bolder. "We would love to see him as an adult man, working a job, having a family, that kind of thing. So as much as he can possibly learn -- that is our goal."
Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.NET MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines took home the silver medal at the recently held World Robot Olympiad 2008 in Yokohama, Japan. The Philippine team known as “Gracean Whizkids” from Grace Christian Elementary School beats 21 other schools. The team is composed of Joseph Aldrin Chua, Edrich Hans Chua and Dominique Hannah Sy. They were coached by Melanie Tizon and Warren John Ong Pe. Their project, dubbed "The G-Tech Robot Engineering a Better World," included 12 different types of robots doing various types of activities to save the environment. The Open Category required contestants to create robots under the theme, "Saving the Global Environment." Teams were judged according to appearance, uniqueness, interactive behavior, good engineering and stability. All the robots were made from parts of LEGO toys. South Korea took the gold medal in the elementary school level for open category, while Malaysia won bronze medal. South Korea also won gold medals for the Regular Category in the Elementary and High School Levels. The country was also represented in WRO 2008 by Benigno Aquino High School and the International School of Manila. They took 6th place in the Open Category in the High School and Elementary categories, respectively. This is the first time that the Philippines won a medal in the Elementary Level Open Category. The country had won medals in the High School Open Category in previous years.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net THE REMOTELY Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV), better known as a submersible, has become the stuff of movies, ever since it was used in some scenes in "Titanic." It found a lot of applications in the underwater research, mining and salvaging sectors. One Filipino company aims to be a player in this industry. Pobletech Inc. recently released the Roboteknik i100, country's first commercial ROV, a robotic machine that can submerge to a depth of up to 100 meters and be guided via a remote control box. The ROV and control box are all connected via an umbilical cord that serves as both the power and data cable for the ROV, which transmits live streaming videos to a monitor on the control box. Here's a video I took of Michael Poblete, CEO of Pobletech, shows off the Roboteknik. Because the Roboteknik runs on external power, it could be operated for over 24 hours and only the operators have to take shifts. The ROV could also be outfitted with external attachments such as soil and water sample collectors; robotic arms; and special cameras. Meanwhile, the control unit has its own hard disk drive to save hundreds of hours of videos and photos. The Roboteknik i100 was designed and built by Pobletech's research arm Roboteknik Inc. The company is also a recipient of the Ayala-Technology Business Incubator at the University of the Philipppines-Diliman. Poblete told INQUIRER.net that the device can be used in offshore projects, particularly for oil and gas exploration. They have also offered their machine as part of the recovery efforts of the recent shipping disaster involving Sulpicio Lines' MV Princess of the Stars. "This machine can be made available anytime and be deployed easily. It's also less expensive to operate compared to the ROVs from other countries," Poblete said, adding that the cost of the machine varies depending on the project. Poblete said that they are currently developing a newer version of the Roboteknik that could dive as deep as 500 meters. The new Roboteknik will also be capable of more attachments for research purposes.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net GRACE Christian High School won a gold medal at the 6th World Robot Olympiad held on Nov. 18 in Taiwan. The team’s project called Operation Security Guaranteed is composed of a city diorama that has a group of security-based robots that fight fire, catch criminals and ensure building protection from would-be terrorist attacks. The Grace Christian High School team is composed of Bryan Lao, Alyssa Sheena Tan and Mark Ian Tan. They won the gold medal in the Open Category for the Junior Level. The team also presented their winning entry at the newly opened Science Discovery Center at the SM Mall of Asia. This is the second time that the Philippines won a gold medal in the annual robotics competition. First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities won the first gold medal for the Philippines last year. The Philippines also won five Excellence Awards for the rest of the Philippines representatives to WRO 2007. Awardees included teams from Grace Christian High School, First Asia Institute of Technology, Humanities, and Philippine Science High School-Bicol. The Excellence Awards varied from the Open Category Primary Level to Junior High School. Over 170 teams, composed of 800 students from 18 countries, joined the competition. Lego is a major sponsor of the event. Its computer-programmable Lego Mindstorms robot machines were the primary equipment used by the participants. The Philippine Robotics Olympiad was sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology and Lego distributor Felta Multimedia. The complete list of winners can be viewed at the WRO website.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net STUDENTS from Grace Christian High School and the Philippine Science High School will lead the Philippine contingent for the upcoming 2007 World Robot Olympiad to be held in Taipei, Taiwan. The students from the two schools were the top winners during the recently held 6th Philippine Robotics Olympiad at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City. They beat 69 other schools to become the country's representatives for the 2007 WRO. Winning in the elementary level is Grace Christian High School "Team A" composed of Carlos Cheng, Jordan Chua and Kyle David Dee, with their coach Warren John Ong. They won the Best in Robo Rally category, as well as the Best of the Best category. Meanwhile the High School Level winner is Philippine Science High School "Bicol Team A" composed of Anton Mari Carreon, Reiland Cordial and Emmanuel Valdoria, with their coach Sevedeo Malate. They won in the Best Robo Ambulating Rally and the Best in Train of Alishan categories. The event is sponsored by Felta Multimedia, which distributes the Lego Mindstorm robotics kit that was used during the competition, and supported by the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI). In an interview, Felta Multimedia president Mylene Abiva Sazon said the top team in each level will be fully supported for their competition in the 2007 WRO. However, the second and third winners for each level will also have a chance to join in the competition. "For the second placers, we’ll be paying for their hotel accommodations only while the third placers will have to shoulder their expenses," Sazon said. She noted that the interest in robotics has increased this year, following the Philippine team's win of its first gold medal in the 2006 WRO in China by students from the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities in Tanauan City, Batangas. She also said robotics has become more than just a pasttime for students joining the competition but a serious activity that develops critical thinking and problem solving skills in young people. "Hopefully, we [will] surpass our performance last year for the upcoming contest," Sazon said. The WRO is an international competition of primary and secondary students who develop small robots with rudimentary programming. Competitions vary from obstacle courses, racing and dioramas depicting robots in various activities.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net MOST people would still think that making robots feel is within the realm of science fiction, but few know that science is better than fiction. A young and upbeat Filipino scientist, John John Cabibihan, is paving the way to making robots "feel." In scientific terms, it is called "tactile sensing," the detection and measurement of physical objects through contact. It is a subset of the general research on robotics, particularly with artificial limbs. Tactile sensing gives these machines the ability to feel objects in the real world. Tactile sensing is also subset field of bionics (or biomimetics), which is generally a study to imitate natural systems and their subsequent artificial application. Cabibihin, who holds a degree in biomedical robotics, is one of the few researchers worldwide to focus on tactile sensing. He was also involved, albeit on a smaller scale, in the development of the famed Cyberhand Project, a collaboration by several European institutions to create a prosthetic hand that not only is able to imitate human movements, but also has an extra feature which is sensory feedback. The young scientist became more interested in the latter feature, while also discovering that little research has been made on tactile sensing in the last three decades, compared to robotics. There are design gaps in tactile sensing citing earlier researches that identify these concerns. Cabibihan took his undergraduate and graduate degrees in manufacturing engineering and management at the De La Salle University in the Philippines, subsequently becoming a faculty member, then pursuing a post-graduate grant at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Italy. He then became a visiting researcher at France's ENS de Cachan. All throughout his studies Cabibihan's focus was on the application of artificial skin and tactile sensing for robots. His Ph.D work in Italy is "to establish the design rules and guidelines in selecting a tactile sensory system and its embedding material that would be comparable in their basic functionality to the human fingertip." Cabibihan also identified the type of material that can imitate human skin and be the primary contact point for sensing objects. It was also the skin-like material that he followed up in his post-graduate work. He hopes that eventually, a new type of material fully imitating the sensory aspects of human skin will be eventually made and used. Cabibihan is delving into bio-robotics. The scientist even believes that the future could be similar to the idea of humanoid robots as depicted in the "I, Robot" short stories of Isaac Asimov. In it, robots have the ability to fully interact with humans and even protect humans when their lives are in danger. Cabibihan said his field requires a multidisciplinary approach where scientists with knowledge on different areas of expertise would work together to contribute to a single program, just as in the European Cyberhand Project. As such, he encourages Filipino students to focus on a particular field of study and make contributions to similar research. He believes that Filipinos can excel in this field due to the great interest in robotics. However, academic institutions should also initiate research activities. "We should align our directions on research," he said.
SCIENTISTS are testing a robot in one of the world's deepest sinkholes, which happens to be located in El Zacaton, Mexico. Here's an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times story:
EL ZACATON, MEXICO--NASA is testing a robot in one of Earth's deepest sinkholes in a first step toward searching for life on Jupiter's icy moon, Europa. El Zacaton, near the Gulf Coast of northeastern Mexico, is about 328 feet wide and 1,000 feet deep. Over the next two weeks, scientists plan to map and take samples in the dark, water-filled fissure with the 1.5-ton DEPTHX robot. It's a prelude to the proposed navigation of Europa's ice-capped oceans in about 20 years.
THINK they'll induct Voltes V, Mazinger Z and Daimos? Or how about the Transformers, heh :) Check out this excerpt from a CNET News.com story:
Aside from its Robot Hall of Fame, CMU has unique outreach projects to engage mainstream America with robots. It has hosted RoboCup, a global soccer tournament played by robots, and most recently released DIY robot recipes that allow anyone to make robots from off-the-shelf parts through its Terk program. The people behind CMU's unique Robotics Institute have also become a hot topic for analysis since the release of a nonfiction book about them by Lee Gutkind. On Tuesday, Matt Mason, the director of the Robotics Institute at CMU announced the 2007 inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame. The honor, which is judged by a jury of both leading science and science fiction experts, was created in April 2003 to call attention to the contributions robots and their creators make to society.