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Our research project is based on autism. We are constructing a robot that will enable young autistic children to comfortably communicate with their teacher at school with the use of our robot. Based on many researches, an autistic child has a better connection to a technology than people. Our project would include a small touchscreen that would aid the students’ communication to the teacher or a guardian. The touchscreen contains 8 icons that describe basic emotions and needs that a student may have trouble expressing to a teacher. The teacher would have the ability to observe the students’ actions and make decisions and or adjustments along the class based on the buttons the child presses.

Step 1: Problem

Students who are autistic are in need of a system of communication between them and their teachers. How can the communication between a teacher and autistic student be improved?

Autistic children often times have difficulty communicating and understanding other people’s behavior which creates an issue as they begin their track of education because at the core of any education facility is communication between a teacher and a student. The Teacher Assistant Bot is a device that will enhance the learning experience of a young autistic child by creating an interface by which the student and teacher can communicate. Using a smartphone and this device allows the student to communicate simple phrases such as “I want to play” or “I am thirsty” along with other phrases that will be integrated. Though the phrases may be simple, they spark communication between the student and teacher which is the main purpose of this device.

Step 2: Purpose

- Establish communication between a nonverbal autistic student (ages 1-5) and the teacher

- To create a friendly and non-intimidating appearance of the device

- Allow a simple and basic understanding of behaviors and emotions through the robot’s actions and the use of color.

Step 3: Background

Autistic children with spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty communicating

“Autism is a neurodevelopmental syndrome that is defined by deficits in social reciprocity and communication.”

(1) “Autism is a developmental disorder diagnosed on the basis of early-emerging social and communication impairments.”

(2) Communication between teacher and student is difficult for ASD children Already Existing Robot; However… Costly, Not easily attained, & Complex

Step 4: Goals

- Construct a robot that is not costly which will allow more people to use the robot

- Change the “difficult to operate” aspect of robots

- Create a device that will bridge the communication gap between teacher and student.

The main goal of our research is to design and build an inexpensive robot that would be easy to build so that a teacher can build it and use it in their classroom to assist them in communicating with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for under $300.00.

Step 5: Procedure

Materials were either provided by the school or ordered on adafruit.com.

The pins of the LED strip module were soldered. DC motors were connected to the Arduino microcontroller through the h-bridge and placed in their respective positions in the main frame of the device. Using a computer and the integrated development environment, Arduino, to write the code and to give different responses in accordance to different stimuli provided by the subject. Through the use of the MIT App Inventor, we used block commands to construct the app.

Step 6: Materials

Arduino microcontroller

Breadboard

Jumper wires

H-bridge

Servos

Acrylic Cutting boards

LED strips

Step 7: Make the App

Step 8: How the Robot Works

The autistic student presses key functions (bathroom, hungry, etc.) on a cellphone and the robot verbalizes the commands, illuminates the color of the function, and performs a preset algorithm routine.The student will have visual interaction with the device as well because the robot will light up and move in accordance to the buttons representing each movement. Though the phases may be simple, they spark communication between the student and the teacher or adult which is the main purpose of this device. We are hopeful and positive that TAB will be able to evoke or spark interactions between the autistic child and the teacher or adult.

Step 9: Color Assignments

“Investigate whether there are also differences in the color perception of those with autism. Anecdotal evidence from parents, careers, teachers of persons with autism and persons with autism themselves suggests that children with autism may perceive color differently to typically developing children. For example, a parent of a child with autism describes her child’s color obsessions and sensitivity to color:

‘By and large he would eat only red food, and to this day he uses ketchup to mask unwelcome colours [in food]. I call his colour obsession ‘mild’ because I have heard of far more extreme cases (Moore 2004, p. 153).’” (5) Franklin, Anna, et al. "Color perception in children with autism." Journal of autism and developmental disorders 38.10 (2008): 1837-1847.

Step 10: Challenges

- Finding the right size or outer appearance, which will not threaten the autistic student.

- Coding the DC Motors along with the servos.

- Programming the Android App

Step 11: Reflection

Learned:

Engineering principles

Mechanical Electrical How to interact with DC motors, Servos, and Bluetooth Modules

How to program an app using MIT App Inventor

Step 12: Finished.

About This Instructable

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Bio: The BCAMRL is a Mechatronics Research Lab, found on the campus of Bergen County Academies a magnet high school within the Bergen County Technical School ... More »
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