Learning Robot Brings Kids Into AI Worlds

(Texas Instruments, TI-Innovator Rover, educational robot, STEM learning, Mathew Dirjish, sensorsmag.com)

It’s not difficult to see artificial intelligence and robotics go together like orange and chocolate, maybe better. It’s even less difficult to deduce that artificial intelligence and robotics, individually and combined, will be a source of future employment and those with mad skills resulting from the study of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects will be making the big bucks. To encourage STEM learning, Texas Instruments (TI) has an offering you can’t refuse.


TI-Innovator Rover


TI has introduced what is described as the company’s first educational robot, a unit that really puts STEM learning into motion and gives students without any coding experience a more-than-basic intro to robotics. The robot, named TI-Innovator Rover, is such a great source of fun that students learn by leaps and bounds in an interactive and hands-on manner.

TI-Innovator Rover

Tailored for middle- and high-school attendees, students learn to write basic programs on TI graphing calculators that make Rover do various tasks like draw, walk, dance, even crash. Let’s again reiterate that software is the heart of artificial intelligence (AI).


The way it works is fairly simple. Rover connects to the company’s TI-Innovator Hub and either a TI-84 Plus CE or TI-Nspire CX graphing calculator is used for basic programming. No coding knowledge is necessary to get started. Novice students can easily get Rover working and performing, making the learning experience a highly enjoyable experience. Peter Balyta, Ph.D., president of TI Education Technology, says, “Given the sheer joy we see on students' faces as they learn to code during our testing phase, we are excited to see how Rover will inspire more young minds through an introduction to robotics.”


The Stuff of Rover


Built for classroom use, and abuse, we can assume TI has built some ruggedness into Rover, particularly since the company seems to encourage students in the writing of programs that make the robot crash. Rover includes a rechargeable battery, color sensor, distance sensor, LED display, gyroscope, and a marker holder to trace on paper.


Stated above, Rover connects to the TI-Innovator Hub. Looking like a modular box, the hub translates commands sent from students via their TI graphing calculators to control Rover. TI-Innovator Hub can also be accessed separately from Rover to help them develop basic coding and design skills and build other working STEM projects.





Connecting students to TI-Innovator Hub and, ultimately to Rover, the TI-Nspire CX technology and TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculators use TI-Basic coding language to program TI-Innovator components. Users with little or no coding experience or knowledge can get up to speed pretty much immediately.



Tests & Testimonials


Girls from Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, TX tested Rover out as part of a pilot program with TI. The girls used algebra to make their Rovers crash and geometry to make them follow a line. Another notable aspect, students team up to work collaboratively, using Rover to explore different STEM concepts.

Girls from Girls Inc.'s Rover pilot Rover test program with TI.

Mia Gonzales, a sophomore at Bishop Dunne Catholic High School, grades the experience, saying, “I'd give the Rover an A+, because I really, really love using it. It's more interactive than what you would usually do in a regular classroom with math. It's hands-on, very visual, and fun and exciting at the same time.”


Zamantha Romero, a first year student at Sunset High School, claims math is not her strong suit. However, after some sessions with Rover, she says, “I'm really distracted when it comes to math, but this was fun enough for me to pay attention.”


You Want More?


The TI-Innovator Rover will be available for purchase in the United States and Canada later this fall and in Europe in early 2018. A video demo of Rover in the classroom is available for download. For further information about Rover, contact Texas Instruments.