DESIGNING ROBOTS WITH HUMAN TOUCH BY JIMMY SANTOSA, Instructional Technology
MESSAGE from the Headmaster
THE EXPECTATION THAT CATHEDRAL BOYS COMMIT THEMSELVES TO SERVING OTHERS has long stood as an essential component of our educational approach. We see this expectation enacted in any number of ways during the year—boys collecting food and clothing for the homeless, boys serving the elderly, boys working in the Bayview Mission, and boys mentoring younger elementary students in the public school system. As with anything, though, we continue to ask ourselves how we can improve. For the past year, as part of our strategic planning process, we spent time evalu- ating, researching, and often debating the future of our service program. This process led to a number of interesting observations and goals. We realized that it is easy to offer unin- tentionally patronizing justifications for service programs. It is easy to proffer explanations for service that stem from privilege—that “more is expected from those who have more.” This noblesse oblige ignores the reality of our common humanity and expresses service as a duty rather than as an aspiration. We also realized that it is easy to fall victim to approaches that separate students from those whom they are called to serve. While there are plenty of reputable programs that raise money for or donate items to worthy organizations, students often remain awkwardly separated from the actual influence of their efforts. Although there can be benefits to both approaches, each seems to miss two educational imperatives: (1) that the students learn about the human expe- rience from direct involvement with those whom they serve, and (2) that they develop an authentic and enduring interest in serving others.
da Vinci surgical robots. During the presentation, they offered intelligent questions to the engineers about the medical proce- dures, the design of the robots, and their limitations. Students heard firsthand how an idea needs to be tested rigorously and modified often based on the test results to improve it. They also saw how an engineer must communicate with the users of their product, think carefully about the effects their design may have, and behave responsibly. Technological advances often have intended and unintended effects on people and the environment. Upon their return to school, the boys were eager to explore the LEGO MINDSTORM kits further, and discover other ways that robots can be used. For a fun challenge, teams applied their programming skills in a Sumo-bot competition, where robots were designed to push each other out of a ring. Needless to say, the boys really got in to this competition.
IN SCIENCE CLASS, A PROJECT-BASED UNIT ON ROBOTICS inspired students to explore the connection between technology and human needs. To begin, students worked in teams of three to design mobile robots using LEGO MINDSTORM kits. They followed online tutorials to learn about the different sensors and programming at their own pace. The teams advanced through a series of physical challenges, which culminated in a maze. The robot designs were revised many times to make improvements, and students’ homework involved writing about the ways they persevered through the challenges. This was an opportunity for the boys to work on open-ended problem solving, to appreciate the value of technology, and also to realize its limitations. During Intersession Week, the sixth grade visited the company Intuitive Surgical to learn how surgical robots are helping the greater good. Students were able to get hands-on with several
Headmaster Jones addresses the Cathedral School community at Graduation
Recent conversations at Cathedral have implicated both how we should serve as individuals and as an institution and what we can learn from this service. We have realized that in order to achieve both goals, our programs should allow students to develop their own interests and, to the extent possible, work directly with those they serve. To put it in more prac- tical terms, rather than merely raiding their pantries for cans for the food drive, we want students to serve food to the homeless. Rather than having service opportunities thrust upon them, we want to develop programs that allow students to articulate their own interests and design their own approaches. Ultimately, the movement is away from a community service model, where students serve from afar, to a servant- leadership model, where the students proactively pursue their interests and
work in relationship with others to develop appropriate responses to human needs. It is through these types of experiences, we feel, that Cathedral boys will truly learn about the world, and, we trust, begin to develop an enduring and authentic commitment to the service of others. We have a long way to go, but we are working hard to get there.
All the best,
Burns Jones Headmaster
Getting a Sumo-bot ready for competition
FALL 2017 • RED & GOLD | 1
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