Monday, September 22, 2008

Scoobas and Roombas in the Classroom

A few weeks ago while clicking the channels on a rainy Saturday afternoon I stumbled upon the Home Shoppers Network demo'ing the iRobot Roomba and Scooba. There was a guy from iRobot doing a great demo. I'm not usually an impulsive buyer but after doing some quick checking on the web I realized $400 for a Roomba 535/Scooba 340 combo was a pretty good deal. About 10 days later when the package arrived I had almost forgotten we ordered the two. My wife and I went back and forth on whether we should return them without even opening the box. I finally talked her into trying them out - they came with a 30 day money back guarantee - so why not?

We opened the Scooba first. The Scooba is a robotic floor washer that you add a cleaning solution to - it dispenses the solution, scrubs the floor and vacumes up the dirty solution. Basically you fill it up with cleaning solution and let it go. When it is done it stops and you empty out the dirty solution for a container on the Scooba.

I was happy to see that we were actually sent a Scooba model 380 instead of the 340 - the 380 has a better motor and can clean up to 850 square feet at a time which is just about the size of our kitchen, half bath and mudroom - perfect. The Scooba also came with two virtual walls that you setup - they send out an
infrared beam to create a barrier, preventing the Scooba from going where you do not want it to go. It cruises around going back and forth, bouncing off walls and getting under chairs and other places that are hard to reach with a mop.

The Roomba is a vacuum that works similarly - it also cruises around back and forth, going over rugs and not falling down stairs. Both are amzing to watch and both do an incredible job cleaning - there is no way we are sending either one back for a refund!

Poking around on the web I learned iRobots are not just for living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens - it turns out they have a pretty nice educational robot called the iRobot Create. The Create is an affordable programmable robot pre-assembled to facilitate the development of new robots. According to the iRobot website the iRobot Create enables advanced high school students, college students, and serious robot developers to program behaviors, sounds, and movements, and even add additional electronics to create the robot of their dreams. There's even a Create Challenge with a $5,000 first prize. Here's a short iRobot Create video from Gizmodo:

There's lots of good information and content from iRobot linked here including down-loadable manuals, classroom exercises, discussion forums and curriculum.

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