Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Robot design

Once a month the 4th graders go to an art studio and work with a lady to create an art piece. This last Wednesday was their last day going for this school year. The art teacher asked them to do something crazy, make a robot. But not just any robot, a functional one, one that serves a purpose. I thought this was a cool idea for the kids and that they would use their imagination to make something exciting. Though it seemed like some of the kids got the idea, most had a really hard time with this concept.

 Many students thought a robot had to have a head, face, legs, and needed to be just like a human. I thought this was a very interesting concept, why did a child think that a robot that is built to do anything, have to be like a human? The only thing I could come up with is: they couldn't distinguish the difference between a robot and an alien. Theoretically, an alien, would be living, breathing (something) and need to preform many different types of functionality, and would have to consume nutrients in some way shape or form. A robot though is very much similar, but extremely different.

In many cases robots and technology are created for a very specific functionality. In most cases the use of arms, feet, touch, taste, and hearing, are not usually needed in a robot's design. If you are creating a batting robot, why should your robot need arms and hands to hold the bat when the actual arm could just be a bat? If your robot picks up trash, why does it need hair? Why does it need 2 eyes? Why does it need lips?

Most of the 4th graders could not find this distinction between robots and aliens, and they needed to have "humanized" robots. Most of their reasoning was because the robot was not "evil." Or "it needs hair because the people won't be scared of it." Craziness..

Technology design is designed around functionality, which is exactly the reason humans evolved the way they did, in other words "survival of the fittest." So what's the difference? Some would say technology is the next step in evolution and humans are nearly a catalyst for the evolution of the universe. It's pretty far out there but it has some merit. Never-the-less, here is some of the artwork from the 4th graders!

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