The Future Is Nao

Everyone's favorite robot Nao

Meet Nao, an adorable, talking humanoid robot that teaches everything from literacy to computer programming. Nao also happens to be the star of the Robotics Program, which is being piloted to school-age students in our Champions before- and after-school programs.

“Nao is a magnet for children,” says Gretchen Yeager, director of quality and accreditation for Champions. “They are completely engaged and start to think that being a computer scientist could be super fun and exciting.”

The Champions Robotics program gives students the chance to develop their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Developed in partnership with RobotsLAB, the 12-hour program is aligned to Common Core standards—a boon to school districts, which don’t always have the resources to integrate computer technology into their day-to-day school programs.

How does a dancing, talking robot complete with facial-recognition software inspire the next generation of engineers, developers, and scientific thinkers? Take a look:

  1. Nao is a great storyteller. From the very first lesson, students build literacy skills by creating stories for Nao to share.
  2. Teachers encourage students to make Nao appear more human by programming hand gestures, emotional movements, vocal tone, even blinks. It’s complicated work, and on the first try, students find that their programs rarely go exactly as planned. Nao teaches persistence as students refine their code and try again.
  3. Sensors in Nao’s knees tell him if he is sitting, standing, lying down, or being lifted. Students develop critical thinking skills by programming Nao to move in specific ways according to “if-then” logic. For example, students might decide that if Nao is upside down, then he will say, “Unhand me, good sir!”
  4. Nao can moonwalk (he arrives at our sites already knowing all of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”), but students can choreograph any dance they can imagine. They collaborate, problem solve, troubleshoot, and share ideas as they work together and test their programming. 

Want to learn more? Check out what Nao can do here.

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