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Roberta meets Android

“Is there an app for it?” – If the question is about »Roberta« then the simple answer is “Yes!”. The Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems IAIS, sponsored by Google.org, has now expanded its Roberta – Learning with robots initiative. The idea behind the initiative is to encourage school girls and boys to program their own mobile apps in gender-appropriate courses and to bring their own robots to life.

Google.org sponsors Fraunhofer education initiative to make the jump to the smartphone

Checking emails on the way to school, playing computer games on the underground and being constantly available via a mobile device ... It is no secret that smartphones have conquered the lives of girls and boys in Germany and this is despite the fact that they are not intended purely for fun, but as an important tool for accessing mobile technology in everyday life. We have now reached the stage where smartphones largely determine how today's youth communicate and perceive the world around them. The Roberta – Learning with robots initiative makes use of this development and now offers school children the opportunity to program their own smartphone apps which will allow them to control robots based on the LEGO® Mindstorms system. The children are using the “App Inventor” developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a kit specifically designed to develop apps for the Android mobile operating system. A graphic user interface lets them assemble applications simply by drag and drop which means that the process of programming remains transparent and no professional programming skills are required. Bluetooth-enabled communication between the finished app and the robots' control units lets robots dance, interact and even carry out jobs.

Google.org financially supported the extension of the Roberta concept as part of the “Google gives Back” campaign to motivate youngsters and to get them into programming mobile applications. One of their motivations was that girls in particular still struggle to make the most of their maths and technical skills. The gender-appropriate orientation of the Roberta initiative is designed to give girls a head start at school age which will help open up doors for a career in a technical or scientific field later on in their lives.

From next year Fraunhofer IAIS will be offering Roberta Android courses on their own premises. Course dates will be published on the Roberta portal when available.