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Science on Tap - Robot Theater

Science on Tap - Robot Theater - Black and White picture with stage, presenter, robots, and audience

Robots have integrated into our society, moving beyond manufacturing applications. Robots can now be found working in hotels, hospitals, and schools. They are learning to drive and deliver packages. Robots also appear in television shows, films, and plays. Historically, when robot characters appeared in film or on stage, human actors played the roles. Technological advances have made it possible for robots to perform character versions of themselves. The University of Iowa’s Robot Theater Project (UIRTP) explores the impact of robot actors on theatrical performances, and also uses robot theater to advance STEM education. For this November 14, 2019 presentation at Hancher's Stanley Café, NAO humanoid robots performed a variety of skits and routines developed by UI students, and Denise Szecsei discussed the development of the project.

As written November 14, 2019 in The Daily Iowan: "At Thursday night’s event, Denise Szecsei, associate professor of instruction in the computer science department, explained that 'Robot Theater' grew out of a class she used to teach called Robot Dancing. Students in the class worked with NAO robots and choreographed and programmed dances, Szecsei explained.

During this course, Szecsei realized that the robots could progress outside of the classroom. 'Theater seemed like a really good place for these robots,' Szecsei said.

The UI Robot Theater Project has grown to provide first-year seminars and summer camps for younger students in the community. Szecsei wanted to emphasize the diversity of opportunities in STEM fields through the project.

'Taking STEM classes isn’t just some boring route to a profession,' Szecsei said. 'You can write for robots, program robots, and have them perform.'

Szecsei mentioned that the summer camps made STEM accessible to younger learners. Working with the robots gave the young students confidence in coding and programming."

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30 PM