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A team of folks have developed this iRobot Create (former Roomba) project for engaging kids in learning basic programming skills and logic. Byron Lahey, Natalie Freed, Alex Kim and Camilla Jensen write:

Our robot recognizes “command tiles” placed in view of its mounted camera and acts accordingly (“turn left,” “stop,” “go in the direction of the arrow”, “repeat last command,” etc.) The commands mapped to each symbol can vary with the type, position, and orientation of the symbol. The idea is to teach basic programming and spatial reasoning concepts in a tangible way. We’ve created challenge scenarios in which participants have to plan where to place the tiles in order to complete a particular task.

The A.L.E.R.T. system makes use of the Create robot from iRobot (the company behind the Roomba vacuuming robot), the open source computer vision symbol recognition system Reactivision, and Hacking Roomba’s Java programming platform.

You can catch up with the team at Maker Faire Bay Area, or at the next Phoenix DIY meeting on April 17th.

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Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset May 3rd and 4th at the San Mateo Fairgrounds, CA (Upcoming.org). It’s for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things. Buy tickets now and save, discount ticket sales end on April 25th, 2008. If you’re in the Bay Area, or plan to attend Maker Faire add “makerfaire” to your Twitter, we’ll be giving away tickets and will have updates before and during Maker Faire!