The Personal Rover Project aimed to create robots that would inspire and
excite children about science and technology. We believe robots can
serve as a fun and rewarding vessel for education, and we are
particularly interested in bringing rovers to the home, the school
and the local science center. Personal rovers are also a compelling
way for children and adults to learn about the technology needed
for scientific exploration such as that done by NASA's Mars rovers.
The Personal Rover Project began operation in 2001 and produced
three lines of rovers as we conducted research in perception,
locomotion, cognition, human-robot interfaces and related fields:
The most recent of the three rovers, the Personal Exploration Rover (PER)
landed in science centers across the nation on January 2,
2004, just when the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers began to land and explore
Mars. Visitors at the National Science Center (Augusta, Georgia),
the San Francisco Exploratorium, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and
the NASA/Ames Visitor's Center were able to
retrieve rover panoramic images of each museum's Mars yard, choose a rock
to explore for possible signs of life, and then partner with the
robot as it autonomously approached the rock and tested for organofluorescence
and provided the mission scientist with test results.
second robot endeavour, was used
for two summers (2002 and 2003) to teach robotics for high school students in
California. The Trikebot has an on-board computer and vision
system that enabled students to program it to follow lines, follow
people and navigate spaces. Every student graduating from
our course, Robotic Autonomy, has received a Trikebot and its
programming environment to keep, enabling continued exploration
and learning following graduation. We have evaluated the educational
impact of this course and have quantitative results demonstrating
broad learning and appreciation of science and technology. You can
download a technical report here.
Rover1, our first robot product, demonstrated the
ability to climb ledges significantly larger than its wheel diameter by
making use of an actively adjustable Center of Mass. Rover1 demonstrated
visual tracking, navigation and obstacle avoidance with the type of
locomotion required for the home environment.
In 2005 the Personal Rover Project was succeeded by a new educational robotics project,
TeRK. TeRK is
built upon our
experience from the Personal Rover Project
and aims to make educational robots accessible to an even larger population.