Vacuum Thinker

18 January 2016

The information-technology programme for students in 4th baccalaureat classes included a module with the theme of “Comfort and Robotics”, leading to the design of a robot vacuum cleaner.

By thoroughly analysing this everyday household object, students were able to come up with a whole range of functions for this new type of appliance.

Thymio robots, used regularly at IIL to introduce students to programming, served as vacuum cleaners. The Thymio has five sensors at the front, two sensors oriented towards the ground and two motors connected to wheels, which makes it look like a computerized vacuum cleaner.

It was up to the students to programme their Thymio, so that it covered a defined, closed space. Programming the machine correctly was often complicated, requiring many trials, students would start again from scratch.

At each step, students check whether the programme changes have the desired effect by testing the Thymio: a pencil attached to the robot leaves a visual mark, to test whether the required journey is complete.

The educational value of this project is not only the programming of the Thymios. Attention is also given to communication. An accelerated film showing their vacuum cleaner’s path, gave students the opportunity to discuss the results of their programming process.

In summary, the project is twofold: to strengthen students’ ability to solve problems and to learn to communicate by telling the “story” of the project. It is very representative of the skills and in-depth knowledge students can acquire through technology.

Philippe Maigre