Microsoft Robotics Studio, and teaching robotics north of the arctic circle

I was excited to see a good friend, Mona, start blogging about her experience running a science center located north of the arctic circle. 

It's fascinating reading.  They're designing interactive exhibits and experiments: everything from visualizing DNA to creating 5-meter-high geisers of Coke and computer-controlled Lego greenhouses.  Mona has a background in marine microbiology, she's an innovative teacher, and her science center is situated in the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromsø, northern Norway, which is just cool.

They're doing some great work with programmable Lego - there's even an all-girls robot building team - and Mona's colleague Dag Atle recently expressed an interest in working with some other development tools for the Lego for implementing the greenhouses.

From the image (right), it looks like they're using Lego's programmable RCX brick, which I once coded against using a language called NQC, or Not Quite C.  I used NQC to make a simple Braitenberg Vehicle and was really impressed by the horsepower of the Lego RCX!

Another option they should explore is the Microsoft Robotics Studio, which would give them an integrated platform for building simulations, controlling live robots, and teaching basic (and advanced) programming concepts.  Robotics Studio includes a simulator environment, a visual programming language, and the ability to move code from the simulated enviornment onto a number of real-world devices, including programmable Lego bricks (RCX and NXT) and those Roomba vaccuum robots.

The simulation component of Robotics Studio is built on top of XNA, and the only reason I haven't written more about it here is I don't have any real-world robotics hardware here to play with, which is the whole point.  Here are the instructions for setting up hardware with Robotics Studio - to give you a flavour for the devices it supports.

Anyway, Mona's blog makes for fascinating reading, and I look forward to seeing the direction the science center takes their programming and robotics content!


[p.s. I visited Mona and my other Tromsø friends back in January and had a great time helping out a little at the Science Center's launch event.]

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