News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 17, 2010

TH Children’s Museum adds new robotic arm exhibit


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Visitors to the Terre Haute Children’s Museum can now get an opportunity to interact with a new robotic arm exhibit that is being added to the museum’s third floor.

The exhibit, called the Lunar Arm, was sponsored by Time Warner Cable and created by students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, with support from Rose-Hulman Ventures and Ivy Tech Community College.

“Robots and robotics have been around for many years, but the fascination and technology is advancing in leaps and bounds. That’s why this exhibit is a perfect tool to help us accomplish our mission of enriching our children’s lives through the exploration of science and technology,” said Lynn Hughes, executive director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum. “The new robotic arm exhibit will help children appreciate science and math while having fun and learning at the same time.”

The arm is 24-inches tall, has a 42-inch arm length, a sweep length of 120 degrees and a payload of 5 pounds. Features of the exhibit include an intuitive user interface, five degrees of freedom, and objects to pick up and move. The arm was designed and built by Rose-Hulman students as a multidisciplinary robotics senior design project.

“I am impressed with both the students’ design and implementation of the lunar arm,” said Matt Boutell, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering at Rose-Hulman and one of the faculty advisors for the project. “Like any other robotic system, creating it required knowledge of mechanics, electronics, controls, and software. The students took the requirement that the arm be robust very seriously; it’s built like a tank! I also appreciate the recent efforts of many at Rose-Hulman Ventures to carry this project across the finish line.”

The robotic arm will also be used as a tool in an after school program for third through fifth grade students that focuses on the topic of robots and manned space flight. The Terre Haute Children’s Museum is currently engaged in the Virtual Space Community, which is a partnership led by Space Center Houston, in coordination with NASA and partner science centers across the United States. As a partner, the museum receives specific space-themed curriculum to help fulfill the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics National Education Standards and the individual State Education Standards. Through the after school program, which will be launched in the spring of 2011, students will learn that robots are tools for astronauts and scientists to safely gather information about the planets and moons. They will also learn about recent robotic investigations on Mars, build a robotic-like arm and compare robotic functions to human body functions.

Shannon Mullen, Regional Vice President of Operation for Time Warner Cable, said this sponsorship ties nicely to the company’s new philanthropic focus called “Connect A Million Minds.” The company’s community outreach program is designed to inspire young people to build the skills they need in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Eighty percent of jobs in the next decade will require STEM skills, so we must build excitement in these areas to help the students of today succeed in the future,” Mullen said.