Human Vs. Robot Intelligence
“Exploring Roomba, the Vacuum Robot”
Practice problem s
, and the scientific method.
Learn about algorithms and compare the process in
computers with the human brain
Observe and talk abou
t the real applications of robots
Swivel Sweeper Vaccum
cut into 3 ft lengths
Tape to hang poster
For each student:
Pen or Pencil
Figure 1: Supplies
Size of Audience
Targeted Age Group:
Parts of the Presentation
give audience the attached quiz before the presentation, to compare to the
quiz after the
presentation, so that you can judge what they learned from the presentation.
Explanation of the parts of the Roomba
using the poster
(See Figure 2
**make sure to cover the search pattern answer on the poster
“brain” of the robot, where the algorithm, or
instructions that the robot uses is stored and read.
the “legs” of the robot, each of the wheels have their own
“tools of the robot”;
how the Roomba does work. Big brushes in th
middle pick up most of the dirt, but there are small brushes on the side to pick
up dirt along the wall. The Roomba does have vacuuming capabilities, but
mostly just sweeps up the dirt.
energy source for the robot
“food for the robot”
12 cells and
each cell holds 1.25 volts
. Battery is recharged by the docking station.
There is a larg
e metal plate inside the robot
makes a sound
when pieces of dirt/debris are picked up and hit against the metal. This i
the Roomba can
when it is in an area of heavy dirt.
explain the concept of the robot having a search patter
is, that the Roomba must vacuum the entire room without knowing the size,
shape or the placement of furniture i
n the room.
details of the
part of the lab
e and understand
the search pattern.
There are two bumper sensors on the front of the Roomba. It can
differentiate between the left and the right side and mov
e accordingly. If hit on
the left side, usually it will turn a random angle to the right, and vice
the right side.
Two censors on either side of the front of the Roomba, so that it will stop if
it no longer senses th
e floor under it. So if it is picked up or comes to a ledge it
can detect infrared signals, so that a remote can be used to control it,
or it can sense
the infrared “walls”. When it comes to one of the infrared wall
beacons, it will
stop about a foot from the center of the beacon and treat it as if
it was a
Experiment (students will follow
the laboratory worksheet
Have the audience read the definition of an algorithm.
Then explain how a robot has to be told how to be
have, and that is done with an
Have the students record a description of the algorithm a blindfolded person would
follow to vacuum an unknown room
Have the students record how a robot, with the hardware capabilities discussed on the
d vacuum the same room.
For the blindfolded person, make sure that the rest of the group is not just giggling at
the awkwardness of a blindfolded person. Remind them to observe in what way the
person goes about vacuuming a
nd what spots the person gets and what spots they miss.
Discuss how the person might have done better.
Observe the search pattern of the Roomba.
How did the person know where they had been and where they hadn’t?
Used the boards as a guide for t
he shape of the room. Similar to the
of the Roomba search pattern.
Listened for the sound of confetti being vacuumed. Similar to the dirt detect on
What spots did both the Roomba and the person miss?
Corners, because of
the difficulty of reaching.
Places in the middle, the robot is programmed to sweep the
middle of the room
in a random criss
cross method, so it is likely to miss spots in the middle.
Hopefully the human was able to remember where in the room he/she had
Search pattern (See Figure
The search pattern
for the Roomba
. When placed in the
center of a room it
until it hits something. Then it can either
though the center of the room, or
hug the wal
using the w
all sensors on
its right side.
The human had many similar techniques to the Roomba. The Roomba had to be
told what to do for the search pattern, but the human could think on its own.
Figure 2: Poster
3: Close up of
Search Pattern on Poster
rom Trial Exp
2010, 4 groups of 10
15 girls ages 11
Example Human Hypotheses
“They would feel around to find where to vacuum at.”
“People could tell them where to go.”
“Guess by feel
ing with the vacuum cleaner to know if they ran into anything.”
Example Robot Hypothese
“Go around edge, then go a little closer to the middle each time.”
“Use a camera or find where the dirt is.”
“Uses the bumpers to make a map of the room and use the inf
rared to see where it’s
In general the audience had a clear idea of
how a human might behave
when trying to clean a
room without sight, but had vague ideas
of how the robot might behave
. Although there was
some understanding of an algorithm beforeh
Observations during the experiment
more into the humor of bumping into things, than in finding the best way to
vacuum the room. Perhaps offer a prize if they vacuum all of the space.
recording the observations would
n’t get involved in the experiment and would
get left out. Perhaps provide a clip board and encourage them to be involved.
enjoyed the interaction with the robot. Perhaps pass around the Roomba so
that they can see the underside. Point
out where the different sensors are, and where the
batteries and brushes are.
Results from the quiz
What is an algorithm?
“A” was given if there was more than a regurgitation of the definition on the paper
Ex: “A certain patter or sequen
ce taken to complete a task.”
“C” was given if some understanding of the definition was shown, but could have just
Ex. “A simple set of rules.”
“F” was given in no understanding of the definition of what an algorithm is.
Ex. “A rule.”
What is the brain of the robot?
“A” was given if something about a computer was mentioned.
Ex. “embedded computer”
“C” was given if there was some ambiguity in the answer.
Ex. “What tells the robot what to do, allows the robot to function”
as given if nothing was mentioned about the computer
Ex. “The batteries”
How would you tell a robot in human form to find the base of the stairs, go up a
flight of stairs and stop at the top
if the robot was just an empty shell and didn’t know
set of stairs were or even how to walk?
“A” was given if all of the aspects of the problem were covered, and a full understanding
of the concept of an algorithm was demonstrated. This usually involved some type of
repeating in the instructions.
“1) Lift one leg up then the other. 2) Feel for the rail. 3) Grab the rail. 4)
Continue to do #1 until the rail stops”
“C” was given if some understanding of an algorithm was demonstrated and most of the
aspects of the problem were covered.
Ex. “View Stai
rs. Lift foot to 1
stair. Lift other foot to meet the first. Repeat
until no more steps are seen.”
“F” was given if no understanding of an algorithm was demonstrated.
Ex. “He has a camera cause that way the robot knows when to move and where
g is at.”
Results are summarized in Figure
A majority of the audience gained knowledge about the hardware of the Roomba and
robots in general
A majority of the audience gained some basic idea of how to write an algorithm or
code”. The robot lost its “magic” thinking qualities.
quiz was given)