Graduate Class for Middle School Teachers

Application is now open for CMU course 16-651 Educational Robotics for the Classroom. Middle school teachers from all subject areas are invited to apply. (A technical background is not required.)

The course will take place at CMU on July 11th - July 17th, 2011, and will focus on how educational robotics technologies like Robot Diaries can be aligned with learning goals in many different subject areas. Teachers will graduate the course ready to integrate robotics activities into their own classrooms. Teachers will also receive 3 CMU graduate units.

The final application deadline is May 5th, 2011. For complete details see:

California Area Middle School Begins Museum Bots

The seventh graders at California Area School District are ready to begin the Museum Bots curriculum. Today, I introduced the project to the students in Mr. Hormell's social studies classes. I showed students the components they will have to work with and some examples that were creates during the pilot sessions at Carnegie Mellon University over the summer. I also showed them a short demonstration of the programming interface.

The students will begin researching their historic figures Tuesday of next week. Once they have background information about the person, they will begin writing their stories in Mrs. Hurley's language arts classes. Finally, Mr. Vavases (science) and Mrs. Hajdu (mathematics) will work with students during the robot production and programming.

The students are very excited about the project and have already begun discussing ideas for their characters.

Richland Fall Update

Over the last few months, the students in my 7th Grade Exploring Technology classroom have had the opportunity to pilot Unit 1, Lesson 1.  Students created Robotic Companions to tell a story about a common day in their life.  I was pleasantly surprised at the creativity of the student work.  Students were excited and engaged in the lesson throughout even the extended lab periods.  Often, students would work on their robots during lunch periods and study halls during the school day.

Pete&C Pre-Conference

We have been approved to present a pre-conference session at the Pennsylvania Educations Technology Expo and Conference (PETE&C). 

Here is our session information

PC-D04 Robots in the Classroom: Telling a Story

February 13 Half-Day Workshop (1:00 P.M. - 4:00 P.M.)

Attendees will use craft materials and robotic parts to design a robot that serves as a means of expression for its creator. Using light, sound, and movement, users can construct a robot to narrate a story. Ultimately, the designing of a robot provides a unique means of exploring, expressing, and sharing emotions, ideas and thoughts while promoting technological literacy and integration across disciplines.

Robot Diaries Summer 2010 - Wrapping Up

The summer residency of middle school teachers Rob Ruddle and Tanner Huffman at the CREATE Lab concluded on August 6. We are grateful for the outstanding quality and volume of work both have contributed to the project. The documentation included in this blog is only a partial representation of the new Robot Diaries curriculum they have created. It was fun to work together and test out the new activities. We look forward for the in-class implementation of the new Robot Diaries curriculum, starting this October.

Last Day Celebration from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.


Concluding Statements

During the last few weeks, it has been my pleasure to contribute the the Robot Diaries project at the CREATE Lab located at Carnegie Mellon University. The lab introduced a unique opportunity to fully immerse myself in curriculum development while being surrounded by competent experts, state of the art facilities, and educational resources that were second to none. As a classroom teacher, it is often difficult to reach out and obtain such a rich location of resources. Being invited to work at the CREATE Lab truly contributed to a much more inspired curriculum.

The learning curve that is associated with technology was well supplemented with the availability of experts that developed the software and hardware for the project. Questions that would usually be addressed via email or phone could be answered in person with quality explanation and hands-on troubleshooting.

The classroom and facilities were well equipped during both development and sample lessons. Often, as educators, it is difficult to obtain appropriate classroom space during the summer for mock classrooms and lesson. The residency at CMU allowed us to utilize fully functional classroom space that was instrumental in the curriculum development. 

Lastly, the educational inspiration and resources at CMU were by far the most comprehensive I have ever experienced in my career as an educator.  We had first hand access to leaders and experts in several fields of art, engineering, literature, and history.  The unique workshops and presentations developed for us at CMU were both informative and inspiring. These experiences are well reflected in our activities and lessons and will afford our students with content that is engaging through real world relevance.

I look forward to continuing my experience with the CREATE Lab and CMU during my upcoming school year. During future summer curriculum development, I am hopeful we can continue the residency format and reach out to invite other educators as well.

Tanner J. Huffman


We spent a month writing the Robot Diaries curriculum at Carnegie Mellon University’s Create Lab.  We created two separate curricula: one is intended to be a standalone curriculum for use in the Technology Education classroom and one is designed to be a multidisciplinary curriculum implemented by multiple teachers.  It was extremely helpful having access to the staff of the CREATE Lab.  Anytime we required resources, they made them available.  For example, when we needed to acquire ideas for the Museum Bots curriculum, they arranged for a private tour of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. When I needed books related to ancient civilizations, they made arrangements at the library.  By working at the lab, we had opportunities to test lessons each week, receive feedback, and make revisions.

Rob Ruddle


Special thanks to Clara Phillips for providing most of the images and videos on this blog, and for her tremendous efforts behind the scenes of the summer residency and in preparation for the lesson implementation ahead.

Museum Bots

Developed by Rob Ruddle


You have been hired to create an exhibit for the ancient civilizations wing at the Robot Diaries Museum. This museum uses animated exhibits to tell stories about different cultures.

Examples of students' work see these videos.


The Museum Bots curriculum was created with the purpose of integrating science, technology, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and art by using robotics as a knowledge vehicle.

Students create robotic characters from ancient civilizations and narrate their lives.
Students integrate sensors to have their robots interact.
Students create a setting for their robots and have the robots react to the setting.

Detailed Documentation:     Introduction     Unit 0     Unit 1     Unit 2     Unit 3 


First Iteration Ancient Celebrities

Museum Bots - Creating an Exhibit / first iteration from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.


Picking between Egypt, Greece or Rome - students researched their ancient civilization of choice to find a historic figure they would like to portray. Students built a robot to represent that personality, and programmed it to move and express emotions as they narrate its story.


Students used this storyboard format to plan and program their robot and its narrative:


Second Iteration Status and Symbols

Museum Bots - Creating an Exhibit / second iteration from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

Following a tour of the Ancient Egypt Hall of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, led by Christine Mills, the lesson plan was revised to include people from all walks of life and integrate ancient symbols into the robot design.



Each student was assigned an ancient civilization and a social class.



After conducting some research using reference books and online resources - students built a robot to represent the class and culture they were assigned. They then programmed it to move and express emotions as they narrate a story from its daily life.


This People and Culture handout helped frame students research and work.


Extension Dialogues

The exhibit has opened and many museum patrons have been asking questions about how the people would have interacted with each other in ancient civilizations. The museum owners have decided to have you and another employee work together to have your robots interact with each other. Of course, the conversation will be translated to English.

Museum Bots Communicate from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

Students modified robots that were built in the previous activities. They wrote a conversation and added sensors and triggers to the design in order for the robots to interact with each other. In this iteration students had a choice of creating a conversation between two characters from the same civilization, or between representative of two different ancient cultures.


Extension Animation

We met with artist Keith Hershberger to learn how to do stop motion animation, and explore ways it can be used within Robot Diaries curriculum. Stop motion animation can help fill narrative gaps in the mechanic movement of the robots, while engaging students in fun media techniques.

Stop Motion Animation Workshop from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.


This clip incorporated stop motion animation into an existing video recorded during the Dialogues activity:

Museum Bots with Stop Motion from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

Literary Bots

Developed by Tanner Huffman


Robots are capable of expressing simple emotions and performing simple actions as they assist in telling a story. curriculum


Lesson 1 My Robot and Me

My Robot, and Me from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

Students created a robot companion based on the face of their favorite animal, person or cartoon character. They programmed the robot to express various emotions, as they narrate a story of a common (or uncommon) day in life.



Special Guest

Among the volunteers in this test classroom was Dr. Marek Michalowski of BeatBots, co-developer of the sweet and famous Keepon (a small creature-like robot designed to interact with children by directing attention and expressing emotion). Michalowski provided some feedback on the lesson and shared some of his experiences working on and with Keepon.


Lesson 2 Robot Seuss

Their Leader You are Not, Take Me to Your Robot from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

In small groups, students read a Dr. Seuss book and then wrote an original story utilizing at least one Dr. Seuss key style (discussed earlier in class). Students created and programmed robot characters to enact their original story.



Special thanks to Kathy Maron-Wood, Senior Librarian, and Patte Kelley, Department Head, at Children's Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, who provided access, guidance and books to support the development of this and other lessons.