In partnership with the California Science Center in Los Angeles, Hitachi Southern California Regional Community Action Committee (Hitachi SCRCAC) hosted it’s eighth annual Hitachi Celebrates Science Day on October 12th. The event hosted more than 170 students, teachers and parents from schools and youth programs across Los Angeles, including Carver Elementary School, Boys Academic Leadership Academy, East L.A. Rising Boys and Girls Club, No Limits for Deaf Children and The Accelerated Schools.
This year's theme was "Robotics to the Rescue," which featured Hitachi's humanoid robot EMIEW3. EMIEW3 rolled onto the stage, it charmed and inspired students and educators alike as it demonstrated how robots could provide support in the classroom. The demonstration team from the Hitachi Global Center for Social Innovation – North America (CSI-NA). Dr. Jiro Hashizume, senior researcher, and Dr. Prasad Rallapalli, senior director, from the CSI-NA robotics team, along with design researcher Stephanie Monterrosa, showed the students how to program a robot like EMIEW3 and demonstrated the ways in which a robot could support school activities such as grading and security by using image recognition.
The students participated in the programing process and learned how to make EMIEW3 greet, wave its hands, move around and even dance. In a demonstration showing how a robot could be used to grade schoolwork, EMIEW3 asked students questions, encouraged them to retry if some of their answers were incorrect, and congratulated them if they got every answer correct. The students’ delighted smiles suggested that robots could be a natural and welcome fit in the classroom.
Prior to the event, CSI-NA researchers hosted a small-group brainstorming session that brought together educators from schools, government, and science centers to discuss how robots could assist in schools, both within and outside the classroom. One suggestion was based on the observation that some students might not have eaten breakfast, making it difficult for them to concentrate on their work. Dr. Hashizume suggested that a robot could help by using face or image recognition to identify such cases. Another suggestion to have robots help students one-on-one with reading assignments or ESL/foreign language coursework. Other participants suggested that robots could take care of time-consuming non-teaching tasks such as copying materials, fetching files and other logistical or delivery chores so that teachers could spend more time with students.
Hitachi Celebrates Science Day was a fantastic opportunity for CSI-NA to engage with students and get them inspired about robotics, and it was exciting to see so many educators with high expectations of how robots can serve and assist in schools. If you are an educator who is interested in potential field trial or proof-of-concept studies to validate the benefits of robots in schools, CSI-NA would like to hear from you. Please contact Prasad at Prasad.Rallapalli@hal.hitachi.com to collaborate with Hitachi and Inspire the NEXT generation.