Robotics The Tech
Classroom Activities

What is a robot?

What is a robot?

A robot is a machine that gathers information about its environment (senses) and uses that information (thinks) to follow instructions to do work (acts).

This is the working definition of robots that Robotics exhibit developers used for this exhibit. Today technology is changing at incredible rates making the identification of a robot somewhat difficult. Things that we use everyday incorporate features beyond those of early robots.

Many things in your home include sensors and/or programmable computer chips that control their operation -- for example your programmable VCR, remote car locking systems and furnace thermostat which responds to room temperature and may be programmed to turn the heat down at night and up in the morning. However, robotic engineers would probably not say your VCR or thermostat is a robot. Likewise, robots are doing more and more.

Today's robots are incorporating multiple sensors and are able to use this information to behave autonomously -- making decisions for themselves based on information that they receive.

There is endless variety in the size, shape and jobs of robots. Some robots are used day after day in factories, while others are highly experimental and use artificial intelligence to behave more and more like living creatures, able to act independently in changing environments. Robots are being designed to perform precision surgery, explore space, the ocean, other dangerous areas.

Portrayals of robots in movies give the impression that robots look and act like humans. The activities in this guide are designed to help those who see the exhibit recognize:

  • How everyday activities that humans do are quite complex.
  • That we can do some things that robots cannot do and vice versa, robots can do some things that we cannot do.
  • There are many different kinds of robots each specially designed to do particular tasks.
  • How robots think, sense, and act.


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