SoftBank Robotics America, a worldwide-leader in robotics solutions, partnered with Finger Food to create Tethys, a platform designed to teach students how to code. The platform needs to bridge the gap between visual programming and full script development in an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). The solution needs to ensure that students are able to receive immediate feedback to facilitate learning, problem-solving, and iteration.
Finger Food built a visual flow-programming platform which introduces non-programmers to scripting with robots. With this platform, students create programs using high-level functions in the form of boxes they wire together and run. When running their program, they receive immediate feedback on a virtual Pepper robot straight from their browser window.
In the short-term, Finger Food and SoftBank Robotics America are exposing students to the world of coding robotics. In the long-term, both groups are seeking to prepare a new generation for the challenges of a rapidly changing automated workforce.
Learn to code with pepper
Pepper has been used in the market for retail operations, but Pepper’s horizons have now been broadened to education, to empower students to engage with innovative computer education tools.
A new way
By creating a custom, fully interactive flow-programming environment using React, Web Assembly and Pyodide, the boundaries of browser-based programming have been truly pushed.
A 3D robot simulator closely mimics the physical robot’s behaviour, allowing students to test and run their programs in the browser or on the physical robot. This includes functionality driven by code as well as passive behaviours that make Pepper seem more lifelike.
The result was a very customized solution, tailor-made to create a working browser-based IDE with a bespoke 3D environment. This environment is integrated to test programs on the simulated Pepper.
The primary objective of the project was to make sure Tethys is accessible to the widest possible audience. To enable this, a web application that runs on common platforms found in schools, like Chromebooks and economy laptops.
Consideration was also given to the fact that access to a physical robot is not always feasible, so a simulated robot that has parity with a physical robot was built. Using the simulated Pepper, students can create and run programs anytime, anywhere.
The big problem faced by computer science educators is that students new to Integrated Development Environments are often overwhelmed and unengaged. On the other end of the spectrum, existing visual programming solutions are rudimentary and leave students feeling stranded.
Tethys was built with these problems specifically in mind. We created a platform to traverse this gap, giving students a chance to grow into writing custom Python scripts in a fun, user-friendly environment.
Thanks to Pepper’s advanced robotic capabilities, students can now use simple flow-based programming to create powerful programs that harness the power of futuristic technologies like facial detection and speech recognition.
Developing a bright future
Finger Food’s team of designers and developers is at the forefront of changing the way people interact with advanced technology. Both the team and vision are evolving, with the company thrilled to not only be developing game-changing products—but the next generation of coders and creatives as well.