What on earth are you doing?

“What on earth are you doing?” was the reaction from a Computing Sciences professor when a bunch of school pupils and Human-Technology Interaction students were seen together with robots in a robotic co-learning session. Curious? Wondering how it turned out? Continue reading to know more.

What happens when you combine Finnish 8th grader pupils, local and international Master Degree students of HTI who don’t have a clue about Finnish and a bunch of robots? Well, robots will climb walls, pupils will learn Tai Chi and show their knowledge about Tampere City; and students will be suprised by how upfront and confident teenagers can actually be.  

Anriika Photography

On the 4th of May, the Human-Technology Interaction study program and Robostudio organized a cultural cross-over meeting just as described above. It was the kick-off of a series of similar workshops that will be conducted in May 2022. Supported by Master and PhD students as well as the teacher herself, students guided pupils throughout several challenging interactions with three different robots: Nao, ClicBot and Pepper.  

Nao, the oldest robot and the Robostudio’s senior, was happy to find some company for his Tai Chi workout routine. It broke the ice from the first moment with pupils. It introduced itself and greeted students with fist-bumps. As a workout instructor, it showed off its balancing skills to the pupils who expressed some surprise about its skills and found it quite challenging to follow its advanced movements.  As benefit of an older robot, its movements were mindfull and precise.    

ClicBot is the trio’s smallest robot. The pupils taught him new tricks like wall climbing, using its suction cups; and moving objects from one place to another one; and surprised us with their coding skills they have learned from programming Lego Mindstorms before. They had nice ideas on what to do with the robots and it was nice to see them engaging with and interested in robots. ClicBot surprised us with his good behaviour and tricks, even when we were preparing everything for the session, a professor saw us and asked: “What on earth are you doing?”, seems like ClicBot skills were stunning that day. 

Anriika Photography

Last but not least, Pepper took over the role of the Quizmaster. The pupils mastered questions related to places in Tampere and taught us internationals about their home city. The pupils were very confident while answering and they did not hesitate to interact with Pepper. In this station, the facilitators started each session with a brief introduction of Pepper. Then the pupils and their facilitators buddies discussed about data security and the pupils were assured that no data will be recorded or stored so they can share anything without any security concern. Finally, it was time for the main attraction of this station, a quiz conducted by the social robot Pepper. The pupils were very excited about this new experience. Pepper provided a short description of the quiz at first then there were eight multiple choice questions in each try and the pupils needed to choose one answer by clicking on the tablet attached to Pepper. Based on the given answer, Pepper responded accordingly and at the end danced a bit when the total score was more than four. All the groups of pupils requested to try the quiz one more time as they wanted to score full points. One group even tried it thrice. The facilitators were pleased to see the enthusiasm about Robots among the pupils.  After the quiz, there was a question answer session, which was more like feedback giving time for the pupils. They were asked about their overall experiences, opinion about Pepper, its appearance, the quiz and so on. They wanted to have quizzes like this at their school and they showed interest to work with this kind of social robot in future as well as shared some ideas for improvement. Pepper indeed won their heart as the pupils asked for more advanced interaction with Pepper.  

Anriika Photography

In addition to learning about the fun of interacting with robots, the pupils and students also learned about the data risks that are involved in this interaction. For the purpose of this workshop, the cameras of all robots have been physically blocked, the microphones switched off and the sensors were disabled. This way we could be sure that our data was protected. ClicBot was the only one operated in a separate room and observed by a glass window to ensure no audio information would be delivered to the manufacturer. The connection to the internet was interrupted in all robots and routers were only connected to the university’s own network. While pupils expressed concern about data security, they also showed high interest in advanced functions that can only be realized using the blocked sensors and functionalities. For example, Pepper can recognize human faces and greet them accordingly and ClicBot can be operated by gestures, which naturally did not work with a blocked camera. We tried to cover the limited interaction features by faking them. For example, pupils could give Nao a fist bump that was secretly controlled by the technical assistant in the background.  

All in all, the pupils surprised us with their engagement, good English and coding skills, and curiosity about robots. The robots also surprised us as they all worked perfectly and better than expected. We all enjoyed this get-together of different nationalities, backgrounds and ages a lot and we are looking forward to the next workshops to continue learning in these co-working spaces. Let’s see how robots and pupils surprise us the next time! 

Comments from the participating 8th grade pupils: 

  • “The HTI students were really friendly and nice.” 
  • “The robots were interesting and awesome!!!!!!!” 
  • “20 minutes went little bit too quick and more time would have been better.” 
  • “We liked the students specially the ones with pepper.” 
  • “It was fun to visit the robostudio, but 20 minutes felt like a really short time.” 
  • “It was great to work with some new people.” 

Comments from the school teacher: 

“It was very nice to see both pupils’ and students’ enthusiasm. 8th graders asked good questions, participated in tasks and dared to speak English with students. The students were patient and repeated if my pupils did not understand. From the viewpoint of the teacher, the visit was well planned. The difficulty level and the amount of activity were excellent. We are going to come again!” 

Anriika Photography

Written by: 

  • TAU Human-technology interaction students: Hilkka Lammi, Mona Frank, Natalia Quintero, Jakub Tkacz, Rahat Rahman, Mohammad Kazi Zafor Ullah 
  • 8th graders and teacher from one Pirkanmaa school 

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