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Humanoid Robot Dance Competition Offers Students Hands-On STEM Experience

California students in grades 6-12 will get a chance this year to program their own robot and compete in Robotic Idol, a robotic dance competition.

Over a three-month period beginning in July, participating students will work in teams to bust out some sweet dance behaviors for NAO, an interactive 23-inch-tall, programmable humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics.

NAO is robotic platform with a sensor network that includes two cameras, four microphones, nine tactile sensors, sonar, and pressure sensors, as well as a voice synthesizer and two high-fidelity speakers. Powering NAO's movement is Choregraphe, graphical programming software designed to help instructors to teach and illustrate abstract programming concepts in an entertaining fashion.

Designed to promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the learning experience combines dance, music, and technology with a fun, hands-on activity that aims to engage creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Throughout the project, students will learn how to access and operate NAO's various capabilities, including vision, audio, control, and navigation, as well as how to incorporate multiple moving concepts and control manipulation using skills that include programming, visual audio processing, whole body motion, control, locomotion, and balance.

Whether it's programming NAO to gyrate like Elvis, moonwalk like Michael Jackson, or emulate gangnam-style like Psi, kids are encouraged to get creative at the competition where they will demonstrate the dance sequences they've created with NAO. STEM mentors and robotic experts will judge the dances on technique, creativity, difficulty of the movement, choreography, showmanship, and precision to select the winning team.

The deadline to register for the October 26th competition is June 28, 2013. A workshop to discuss the details of the competition will be held Friday, February 22, 2013 from 9:00-1:00 at the RobotsLAB headquarters located at 75 Broadway Street, Suite 202, San Francisco, CA.

For more information about the competition and to request an informational packet, visit

Aldebaran Robotics designs, produces, and sells humanoid robots to schools and universities worldwide for teaching and research. Further information is available at

About the Author

Sharleen Nelson is a freelance journalist based in Springfield, Oregon. She can be reached at [email protected].