Mechanical Technology Archive

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) together with the NCCR-Robotics centre in Switzerland, have jointly begun work on the Thymio Robot project in South Africa, which involves learners from Eden College, Durban.

 Thymio Eden College

A world-first international event, named ‘Remote Robotics using the Thymio 2’ (R2T2), took take place on November 4, at which Eden College was connected to schools in five other participating countries, which included Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France and Russia. Via YouTube streaming video and Skype chat, learners interacted with each other to remotely program and control robots in Switzerland using Thymio software.

The event replicated a search and rescue scenario on the planet Mars. A meteorite damaged an important Martian power station and the damage needed to be assessed so that the main generator could be restarted.

The 16 robots on the Mars site had to be controlled by a team of engineers and space experts from Earth. Between Mars and Earth there is a delay in video transmission (replicated at the event) and direct remote control is impossible. Therefore the Earth experts need to programme the robots to solve the tasks.

 The Thymio Robot project in South Africa, headed up by Riaan Stopforth and Shaniel Davrajh from the School of Engineering at UKZN, aims to enlighten scholars on better understanding of robotics.

The collaboration with UKZN began when, Prof Francesco Mondada, a professor in Mechatronics Engineering from EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne) in Switzerland, developed an interest in robotics education and developed the Thymio robot as an educational tool.

The Thymio robot is programmed using a graphics interface and generates the code in text on the side of the screen to allow learners to observe the commands and correlate them with the graphics. This allows programming techniques to be learned and programs to be modified using advanced commands.

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