(Re)Creative Mobile Robotics for Kids

The aim of this project is to propose a new on-site perennial interactive workshop for children and youths in order to develop practical skills on mobile robots and drones, motivating them to continue their curriculum in engineering.


Cristina STOICA MANIU, Professor, CentraleSupélec/L2S (Univ. Paris-Saclay)

Sponsoring IFAC Body

TC9.2. Systems & Control for Societal Impact


The online workshop Girls in Control revealed the necessity of motivating and inspiring programs for kids all around the world. With the increasing development of technology, science becomes more than ever within everyone’s reach. More and more research labs and universities open their doors to broad public during Open Days events. However, research materials are often expensive and not appropriate for children use. In order to allow kids having a realistic scientific experience, there is need to equip our labs with user-friendly design equipment, respecting the toy standards, while allowing recreative, funny, modern and scientifically sound pedagogic activities.
Activity description
The aim of this project is to propose a new on-site perennial interactive workshop for children and youths in order to develop practical skills on mobile robots and drones, motivating them to continue their curriculum in engineering.
The main motivation is to propose a Mobile Robotics workshop at the national event “Fête de la Science”, which is a large-scale science festival, created 31 years ago, and organized yearly by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation to promote and
popularize science in France. This successful festival offers thousands of free events open to everyone, including kids, young people, etc.
The project has two phases:
- Phase I (Workshop on Mobile Robotics, “Fête de la Science 2022” edition and beyond): A first workshop involving the use of ground robots (DJI Master Robot S1) is envisaged for October 2022. One MasterRobot S1 is available at CentraleSupélec and one group of students is currently working on it, in order to develop the materials necessary for the workshop (scientific content, algorithms, interactive pedagogical activities…). However, in order to allow several groups of children to implement their programs on a real robot, it is necessary to purchase several identical robots. The scientific content of the workshop goes from Programming (in Scratch) to Robotics and Control Engineering, with an opening to Artificial Intelligence. An advanced session, allowing young persons to program the same robot in Python will be developed for the next years editions.
- Phase II (Workshop on UAVs, “Fête de la Science 2023” edition and beyond): A second workshop on Drones will be proposed for the 2023 edition of this science festival. We will have one year to work on the material to be presented, in order to allow children and youths to develop programming skills for drones and swarms of drones. The team involved in this project has experience with drones used for research aims, often using Matlab/Simulink or ROS (Robotic Operating System) together with Python, which can be complicated for children. With a children friendly design, the drone DJI RoboMaster TT offers the requirements for this workshop, allowing simple Python developments for a single drone and also for a swarm of several drones. The new indoor flight arena (10m x 5m x 3m) of CentraleSupélec will be used for the experiments on drones.
In addition, all these activities can also be proposed for children visiting CentraleSupélec and L2S – Laboratoire des Signaux et Sytèmes at numerous occasions (e.g. children’ and youths’ internships, pedagogical events, inclusion and diversity events).
Targeted audience
This project proposes workshop activities designed for children and teenagers from all the social environments, providing them access to high-standard educative material and interactive pedagogical activities, opportunities to interact with engineering students and academic participants who will answer their questions, will explain the benefits and impact of engineering and science for the humanity, will explain the advantages of an engineering career, will advise them individually, etc.
Phase I of the project will target children from 8 to 14 years old, while Phase II will mainly target youths from 13 to 18 years old. We are planning to propose several experimentation sessions (approx. 15-20 children/youths per session) at the event “Fête de la Science”.
Why this is important
We believe that this perennial (Re)CreativeRobot project will strongly contribute to the visibility of Control Engineering and Robotics to the younger generations, while making Mobile Robotics accessible and motivating children and youths to continue their curriculum in engineering, while promoting equal opportunity, inclusion and diversity. In addition, the developed materials will be shared within the IFAC community allowing to our colleagues to propose similar/improved activities for children visiting their respective labs/universities.