STOCKHOLM, N.J: This past summer a group of Appalachian girls in a rural mountain community did something they'd never before imagined: they built and programmed walking hexapod robots.
The Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education (PAGE), located in Madison County, North Carolina, runs a six-week summer educational program. They had never fielded a robotics activity before, but this year Vorpal Robotics donated eight scampering, radio-controlled, programmable hexapods.
Deborah Hicks-Rogoff, Executive Director of PAGE, explained: "Having a STEM learning activity featuring robotics was an exciting opportunity for girls in Madison County, North Carolina. PAGE students live in economically vulnerable rural communities. A robotics learning activity offered a chance for Appalachian girls to experience 21st century learning in a fun atmosphere."
"The girls were immediately excited to see a robot walk and dance," said Duke Engineering student Caroline Potts, who supervised the activity. "We started building in small groups, and their interest deepened. One girl said, 'I can't believe I'm building a robot!' and another cut other activities just to get more programming time!"
"We were thrilled with the success at PAGE," commented Steve Pendergrast, founder of Vorpal Robotics. "It only took a few ultra-cool robots and one motivated college intern to open a whole new world of technology to these students. That's why we're launching our donation program—to inspire more students."
Vorpal Robotics will donate fifty of their hexapods to educational organizations in the coming months. And they are offering incentives for others to donate, too. Organizations receive not only the robots but also free consulting on how to use them in the classroom.
"In my ten years teaching robotics," Pendergrast continued, "I've never seen anything like the hexapods for inspiring students. Something about these robots—able to walk, dance, and perform outlandish and interesting movements—captivates people."
Organizations who wish to receive donations as well as individuals who want to help expand the program can find details on the VorpalRobotics.com home page.
"We want to spread the word that technology is an awesome topic to study," Pendergrast said. "This program will help bring that message to more students."
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