Benjamin Durham is a science teacher at Lane Technical High School in Chicago who has been using NAO in Robotics 2 and Adaptive Robotics. In Robotics 2, an intermediate-level robotics class, students use both Choregraphe and Python to program NAO. Many of these students have aspirations of going into medical or social work, and wanted hands-on experience of what robots might be able to do in these fields.
The Adaptive Robotics Class is for students with mild to moderate Autism, and Mr. Durham has seen some wonderful outcomes after introducing NAO. The students love interacting with the humanoid, and respond to him like a person.
Mr. Durham explains, “He's kind of like a celebrity in that class and when he comes out it's always a very exciting day. They love his tactile sensors and watching him react to their touch.”
One of the best benefits that Mr. Durham has noticed while using NAO is the flexibility of programming. A student with very little programming experience can use Choregraphe’s built-in features to learn the basics, and then progress into the more advanced Python. Having one tool that can grow with students, or be used by students of varying levels is always appreciated.
For his Adaptive students, he has noticed a clear increase in verbal skills since they began working with the robot. NAO can only “hear” clear commands, so enunciation and speaking up are required in order to get a response from him. Students love when NAO understands what they say and respond, which encourages them to develop their speaking skills. NAO also requires facial recognition in order to pick up commands, so students learn to make eye contact when speaking to him. These are social norms that many students with autism struggle with, but using a tool they love encourages them to develop the skills.
Finally, NAO has helped to connect the students between classes. The Adaptive Robotics class was created with the needs of students with mild to moderate autism in mind, and was entirely designed by students on his FIRST Robotics team! These students worked hard to design and submit the Adaptive Class course proposal to Chicago Public Schools, and now it is available to be taught at any high school in the City of Chicago. With this, the students have put their “school learning” to practical use, and done some good with the field of robotics.
Currently, Mr. Durham is even planning to have NAO be the ring bearer in his wedding, and his Robotics 2 class is working on the programming for this. We’d love to see that!
Curious to see how NAO could be used in your classroom or district? RobotLAB would love to help!