WPI/DEKA collaboration puts affordable machines onto world stage
The diminutive robot being distributed Oct. 13 to an international cadre of high-school level teams competing at the FIRST Global Challenge competition in Geneva is about the size of a box of chocolates; however, its size belies its potential, because packed into its rectangular plastic body are much bigger opportunities.
Simple, affordable, easy to build, and just as programmable as a much more expensive machine, the XRP (Experiential Robotics Platform), developed through a collaboration between WPI and DEKA Research & Development Corp., promises to level the STEM playing field globally and create a future generation of engineers.
“It changes the paradigm for teaching,” said Brad Miller, former director of the WPI Robotics Resource Center and senior fellow for the university’s new OpenSTEM Initiative. “It’s a robot that costs less than a textbook. Potentially every student in a classroom could have one.”
Each of the 185 competing teams at FIRST Global will leave Geneva with the beta version of the XRP kit, which will include access to a WPI-developed curriculum that helps educators build lesson plans around it. Upon their return to their home nations, WPI will provide virtual support for teachers and students in basic robotics education through online courses, and will guide them through the new system, which gives them the ability to scale up using the same hardware with free software updates. Miller said the idea is to use the kits as a way to get high school students around the world interested in STEM.