CASE STUDY: Robots in education

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The Humanoid Robot Research project is a collaboration between The Association of Independent Schools in South Australia (AISSA), Swinburne University, The University of Queensland (UQ), and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). 

The project aim is to understand what impact humanoid robots may have on students’ learning, and how humanoid robots can be integrated into the Australian Curriculum.

Over three years, two humanoid robots were placed at 12 different primary and high schools in South Australia. Each school was encouraged to explore how to integrate the robots into teaching and learning. The schools had one robot on loan, for one to three school terms, and a number of teachers and classes in each school integrated the robot into classroom learning.

The teachers and students at each school learned how to program the humanoid robots to speak and walk. Some schools had students exploring facial recognition, and programming dance routines to music. The students could try their program first on the virtual robot, before running it on the real robot. Students could program using a visual drag-and-drop language, or timelines with Choregraphe, or Python, a general-purpose programming language. The two robots were very popular and became a part of the learning community. At one school, the robot was programmed by the students in Years 1- 4 to speak Narungga, the Aboriginal language of Yorke Peninsula in South Australia.

The project has found that humanoid robots have a positive impact on school students from preparatory level up to Year 10 level and could easily be integrated into the Australian Curriculum, across a range of learning areas, in authentic ways. The teachers found the students became more deeply engaged in their learning, because it was a humanoid robot they were working with, and because of this enthusiasm, students often led their own learning with the aim to solve challenges they had set themselves.

The Humanoid Robot Research project was recognised by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), and won The Digital Disruptors Team Award for Service Transformation for the Digital Consumer (NFP) in November 2017. The project was also highlighted in the Reconciliation Australia Practices (RAP) Impact Measure Report, 2017.

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