Beginning Robotics for Kids: How Robots Interact with the World

Beginning Robotics for Kids: How Robots Interact with the World

            In order to be considered a robot, the machine you create must interact with the world in some way, just as humans do using their senses. Robots are able to receive and send information from the real world into a digital form. For example, a television remote can be considered a type of robot. When you press different buttons in the real world, it sends a signal to change the television stations. Sometimes it is useful to see the similarities between the ways robots interact with the world and the ways humans interact with the world in order to understand how to use different electronic sensors.


            Humans have five main senses. They are sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.  In contrast, robots can be given certain senses in order to help them interact what the world. These can align with the five sense humans innately have, but don’t always. Many “senses” robots are given are more specific than the broad categories of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. For example, a sensor can be attached to a robot that is able to detect the pH of a liquid, while humans are sometimes able to detect how acidic or basic a liquid is by tasting it (only if it is edible, of course). Depending on the goal the robot is meant to achieve, it may only need certain senses. For example, if you want to build a toaster robot that will light up a LED when a certain temperature is reached, it would need an LED light and a temperature sensor, but it would not need any senses similar to human’s sight.


             Roboterra’s innovative Origins Kit includes five boxes, all essential to allowing your robot to interact with the world. They are the Sense Box, Connect Box, Build Box, Think Box, and Act Box. This article will teach you what vital role every box plays in bringing your robot to life. While the Act and Sense Boxes give your robot senses similar to humans, the Think Box, Connect Box, and Build Box serve as, respectively, the brain, joints, and bones of your robot.

             The Think Box is the brain of your robot. It contains the RoboTerra RoboCore, battery pack, and USB cable to attach the RoboCore to a computer. The RoboCore is a microcontroller that receives information from your code and allows your robot to fulfill commands. Just like the human brain, electronic signals are received and “translated” into usable information. CastleRock, RoboTerra’s programming platform, uses a compiler and sends the electronic signals to the RoboCore. Many ports can be seen on the RoboCore, like DIO ports, AI ports, and SERVO ports. Different sensors can be plugged into these ports. In general, servos are plugged into SERVO ports, and all other sensors are plugged into DIO ports.

            The Sense Box contains the eyes and the ears of your robot. It includes buttons, sound sensors, light sensors, and tape sensors which sense colors. Your eyes and ears take in information from the outside world and send it to your brain to be processed, just like these sensors do. While your eyes are able to receive information about light and color, these two functions are separated into two different sensors for RoboTerra robots, respectively, the light and tape sensors.

            The Act Box contains the nerves of your robot. The nerves also interact heavily with the brain, in this case, the RoboCore. For RoboTerra robots, these nerves are servo motors and LED lights. The Connect Box contains the joints of your robot: nuts, screws, Allen keys, and wrenches. Without this box, your robot would just be a pile unorganized servos and sensors. The connect box not only allows your robot to have a sturdy structure, but also allows for movement when needed. The Build Box includes the bones and body parts of your robot. The RoboTerra Origins Kit includes many different “body parts” for you to create a robot. They allow for you to create any shape of robot you might need.

            When the components from all these boxes are united, your robot is able to interact with the world efficiently. While many robots do look or act human-like or life-like, it is important to remember that not all robots have to. It can be useful to think of your robot as a human, but limiting your perception of robots to this view could limit the creativity you are able to use when creating robot designs. It is more useful to think of the components of the boxes that are all similar to parts of a body working together to create a machine that will achieve an end goal. Try creating a unique robot using every box!

Derek Caporobotics, kids