September 23rd, 2011

Robots: Educational Robotics

In today’s show, we look at the playful field of educational robotics. We start by talking to Dr. Francesco Mondada, the leader of the MOBOTS group at EPFL, about his group’s efforts in this field. Focus is given to the Robotics Festival, an annual event he started back in 2008. We then talk with Stéphane Magnenat, a former member of the group and current member of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETHZ. Stéphane developed ASEBA, a straight-forward software package that allows beginners to program robots easily and efficiently. Finally, Fanny Riedo, PhD student in the MOBOTS group, presents the low-cost educational Thymio II robot.

Francesco Mondada

Founder and former CEO of K-Team, currently the head of the Miniature Mobile Robots Group (MOBOTS) at EPFL, Francesco Mondada has been one of the main people behind such popular research and educational robots as the Khepera, the S-bot, the e-puck and more recently the Thymio and Thymio II.

In this episode, he tells us about the work that MOBOTS is doing in educational robotics and then presents the popular Robotics Festival, held every year at EPFL. A success from the very beginning, the Robotics Festival managed this year to draw 13’000 visitors in a single day of interactive workshops, demos, and robotic shows.

EPFL Robotics Festival

Stéphane Magnenat

Currently working as senior scientist in the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETHZ, Stéphane did his PhD within the MOBOTS group, where he developed ASEBA.

ASEBA is an event-based architecture for distributed control of mobile robots. It includes a user-friendly scripting language and a tightly integrated development environment which allows novices to rapidly start programming robot behaviors.

ASEBA has been used with success in the Robotics Festival for teaching children basic robot programming.

Fanny Riedo

Fanny Riedo is doing her PhD on educational robotics with the MOBOTS group and presents the project she is currently focusing on: the Thymio II robot.

The Thymio II is an affordable children-oriented educational robot. It has a large amount of sensors and actuators, a specific interactivity based on light and touch, which is aimed at increasing the understanding of the robot functionalities, and can be programmed easily by using ASEBA.


Stéphane Magnenat
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  • Dexter Industries

    Have you looked at Lego Mindstorms NXT?  The system has been around for 10 years, and features a lot of great sensors and curriculum for teaching robots.  

    Dexter Industries makes sensors for the Lego Mindstorms NXT:

  • Sabine Hauert

    There was an episode about the Lego Mindstorms a while back:

    We didn’t cover special sensors though, thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  • Dexter Industries


    No problem, thanks for bringing that episode to my attention!  I’ll check it out, looks fantastic!



  • Hamin911

    hello, I’m here in korea. I’ve heard there is a robot for teaching english. If it is okay, please post news about that. anyway, thanks for collecting good info:)

  • Markus Waibel

    Hi Hamin911,

    There are a few robots that are used for teaching. Off the top of my head:

    1. Just in the news recently, Cynthia Breazeal at MIT, Paul Harris from Harvard and David DeSteno from Northeastern University have developed a robot dragon to help kids with language skills:

    2. The Machine Perception Lab at the University of California in San Diego is doing work into that direction. The e.g. developed a robot called RUBI for teaching:

    3. Similarly, the Socially Intelligent Machines Lab at Georgia Tech is working on a robot called Simon:

    4. Red the robot. We posted about him in the Robots Forum a while back:

    5. Finally, the world leading research in that field is actually done by the Center for Intelligent Robotics at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). Since you are in Korea, you probably know more about this than me. Teaching robots are already used in some of Korean schools:

    Hope this helps.

  • Hamin0911

    Oh thanks alot!! It does help!♥ Sorry for the late late reply.