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Robot inspires school children to learn about coding at DMU

A new state-of-the-art robot welcomed schoolchildren and visitors to campus as part of De Montfort University Leicester (DMU)'s annual Hackathon.

Bought and programmed by DMU, the robot currently named Nao was the focus of a computer programming session held for children in Leicestershire and further afield.
Dr Samad Ahmadi,| who heads up the university’s ViRAL research group in the Faculty of Technology said: “It is a very exciting way of learning programming, incredibly dynamic and interactive.
“We want to help stimulate interest in, and encourage students to want to learn computer science and programming, a field which is becoming increasingly sought after by employers.”
Aidan Mackay, aged 12 from the Isle of Coll, in Oban, Scotland, travelled more than two days to see the robot. He said: “Being here is really good fun. The most impressive thing about the robot is how interactive it is and that it takes in everything you say.”
The robot can respond intelligently to questions and commands. When children asked it if it could do t’ai chi, it began to demonstrate a sequence mimicking the martial art.
Gautam Devaraju is a first year Computer Security| student from India and a volunteer with DMU Square Mile, the university's community initiative which helped to organise the children's session.

He said: “The robot is really brilliant. Each person who interacts with the robot will learn how to approach problems through a step-by-step and logical process.”
While the robot is helping to inspire the next generation of coders, research is under way at DMU looking into using the robot as a virtual parent for autistic children.
The robot can be programmed with different prompts and it is hoped that this will encourage tasks, identified by parents, to be carried at out by children at specific times of the day. See what it can do here:

Mark Charlton, Square Mile manager, said: “It’s brilliant to see young people engaging with technology, and great that DMU staff and students are so passionate about sharing their skills and knowledge to benefit others.
“This is a real demonstration of how DMU is contributing to the public good.”

* See DMU's Faculty of Technology for yourself|
* Digital games spark children's creativity|
* Astronaut takes pupils on an out of this world lesson|

The event held for children was part of the HALE 2014 Hackathon, a joint initiative run by DMU’s ViRAL research group, DMU Square Mile, Leicestershire County Council and the University of Leicester.
Each year volunteer computer scientists work for up to 48 hours to help solve challenges faced by different community groups, such as those with autism to support independent living.

Posted on: Monday 17 November 2014

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