Cubelets: Small Robots Teach Big Science Lessons

Cubelets are magnetic, electronic building blocks, each with a small computer inside, that can be connected in many different ways to move around a table, follow a hand signal, turn on a light, play sounds, or do many other creative tasks. They were developed by Eric Schweikardt and his team at Modular Robotics, with support from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. “Cubelets come in three categories, sense, think, and act. That's our working definition of a robot - any mechanical device that senses, thinks, and acts,” says Schweikardt.

“Cubelets are an example of a complex system. They're made of lots of little cubes – each with a different capability, such as a distance sensor cube, a drive motor cube with wheels, and a battery cube. And, when you put them together, they do something greater, such as drive when they detect an object,” he continues. “They’re inspired by natural systems of individuals that join forces and work together, such as insect swarms or birds flying in a ‘V’ formation.

These 21st century building blocks are meant to help kids learn about the basics of robotics while boosting their confidence to solve problems.

Provided by the National Science Foundation

Runtime: 2:36

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