In our summer camps, two of the most popular activities have been Scratch and Pict Crickets. Unfortunately, the company has been bought out by Lego and is being dismantled in favor of their We Do, which isn’t anywhere close to the same thing. I’m excited about Hummingbird — I hope that it captures some of the Pict Crickets excitement. While educational robotic kits traditionally have focused on the technology itself — the building of a robot — Hummingbird treats robotics as just one element that can be combined with craft materials and text to communicate thoughts, feelings or ideas.
“We want students to become inventors of technology rather than users of technology,” said Robotics Professor Illah Bourbaki whose CREATE Lab developed Hummingbird for a project called Arts & Bots. “Hummingbird feeds a student’s natural curiosity about technology by enabling her to incorporate robotics into something she is making that is meaningful or useful.” The results often amount to kinetic sculptures that use sensors to detect changes in their environment and respond with movement and/or light displays. A cardboard dragon that turns its head and tries to bite anyone who comes close is one example. Students in West Virginia built a working replica of Star Wars’ R2D2.