Just wrapping up work with Nao for the summer.  The four modules I’ve developed over the past 6 weeks are Module 1: Tactile (physical interaction), Module 2: Social (discuss/display emotion words/poses), Module 3: Learning (identify alpha/num/pic flashcards), Module 4: Exercise (pose imitation).  The Choregraphe software allows for pre-programmed box assembly and also original script box assembly.  I’ve also tried out some command-line scripting, although I’ve gotten some errors and little progress in this area.  The modules work well separately, but together they form a formidably large program file that likes to freeze Nao up.  Upon restart, he informs me that he cannot find his body.  Sad and hilarious at once!  The next start up usually rectifies the issue.  Working with Nao has been a lot of fun both for learning about him and also learning about ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  What I still hold onto from my old bio days is a strong interest in disease and disorder processes and their physical manifestations.  I’ve recently become strongly interested in the application of software/programming in educational contexts.  And so enabling Nao to perform simple activities that have a purposeful application to ASD subjects is a meaningful  combination of all these interests.  And the more I’ve read about ASD itself, the more I understand the actions that therapists are encouraging in ASD subjects, the same actions I now witness my children performing on their own as they follow a traditional, non-afflicted path of development.  Careful consideration of these developmental activities (imitation, touch, eye-contact, communication) can also aid in parenting and mentoring, other topics also very important to me.

Talking about mentoring…

I became interested in an opportunity to be sent by my department to the STARS conference in Virginia in August.  In exchange for this opportunity, I’ve volunteered to do some mentoring of children at local family/community centers.  Specifics haven’t been worked out yet, but the idea is to hold workshops in which the children will be introduced to or their progress monitored in Scratch programming.  This is a really intuitive program for children to develop a working knowledge of programming while constructing an actual program with the help of action modules that fit together like puzzle pieces and a window that provides visual results of the progress at any point along the way.  I also ran into some Mozilla tools that I’d like to use as an alternate learning tool to Scratch.  I was able to read through the examples and create my own project within about 10 minutes.  And there are a lot of examples to build from, giving a range of ideas, options and experiences in a very user friendly format.  Here is the web page I created within minutes using the awesome animal/zoo example: my awesome animal.

I still am really excited about Udacity, although I had to give up my spring classes half way through to take care of my Loyola spring classes.  I plan to work through CS101 and CS253 again, starting next week.