MOOC – Discovering Digital Sciences with Thymio

Taking your first steps in the digital world is possible!

The MOOC titled “The Thymio robot as a tool for discovering digital sciences” is the result of a fruitful collaboration between education experts which offers a smooth introduction into the fascinating world of digital technology.

To get started, you don’t need to have a Thymio robot at hand: thanks to its virtual version, you can immediately get to the heart of the matter.

As for its physical version, it will allow you to experience all aspects of interaction and programming that this educational robot has to offer.

The educational materials (videos, texts, images, exercises, quizzes and many more resources) supplied in this MOOC have been carefully selected with the aim to provide learners with a captivating journey into the digital world. What’s more, all the educational materials can be transposed and applied within a classroom context.

 

The French version of this MOOC was jointly designed by EPFL and Inria and adapted into German through a cross-institutional and cross-organizational collaboration (ETHZ, PH Luzern, SUPSI, PH Bern, PH St. Gallen, PH Schwyz, amXa, Bischoff). It is available on several platforms such as fun-mooc.fr, edx.org, courseware.epfl.ch.  The Italian version is under development.

The course is divided into six chapters:

Chapter 1: Introduction to Computer Science and Robotics

Chapter 2: Thymio

Chapter 3: First steps in programming with Thymio (VPL)

Chapter 4: Programming Thymio with Scratch

Chapter 5: Programming Thymio with Aseba Studio

Chapter 6: Educational activities with Thymio

The first chapter introduces the basic concepts of computer science and robotics. The second chapter is an introduction to the Thymio robot. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 cover programming the robot in different environments with increasing complexity. Finally, Chapter 6 is a practical application of the elements presented in the MOOC.

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E-Puck – The Ultimate Tool to Teach Embedded Robotics!

After more than 15 years and multiple generations, the Swiss-designed e-puck is still used worldwide by more than 4’000 universities and research centers. This modular mobile robot is a key tool to teach mobile robotics.

The e-puck is an educational robot that helps generations of students learn about embedded systems and robotics. First developed at EPFL in 2004 by Francesco Mondada and Michael Bonani, a new version was released in 2018, produced by GCtronic in Ticino.

The e-puck contains 15 sensors including 4 microphones, a color camera, 8 infrared proximity sensors, a time-of-flight sensor, an inertial measurement unit, in addition to speakers, 8 red LEDs, 4 RGB LEDs, and many more features to explore. Its simple structure with 3 contact points and two wheels makes it mobile, leading to a wide range of possible uses. All of the necessary resources are available on the GCtronic wiki for e-puck2!

Although the e-puck is mainly used for educational purposes, its completeness and modularity led it to be part of research in various other fields including collective and evolutionary robotics, but also in artistic performances!

Contact(s):
Daniel Burnier - daniel.burnier@epfl.ch
Matthieu Broisin - matthieu.broisin@epfl.ch
Website:
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Thymio: The State-of-the-art in Mobile Educational Robotics

Thymio is an open-source educational robot designed by researchers from EPFL, in collaboration with ECAL, and produced by Mobsya, a nonprofit association whose mission is to offer comprehensive, engaging STEAM journeys to learners of all ages.

The increase of digitalization offers an unprecedented opportunity to make digital education accessible to everyone on an equal opportunity basis. Many countries such as Switzerland, France, Belgium, Canada, and Tunisia have already included programming, computational thinking and educational robotics in their compulsory curricula, with more and more policymakers following suit each year.

The Thymio mobile robot can already be seen equipping schools across primary, secondary, and University levels. It is produced and distributed by Mobsya, a nonprofit association that continues to develop Thymio into a complete digital education concept centered around three core pillars:

 

  • Sustainable, open-source platform: The Thymio educational robot is a small interactive teaching device, based entirely on open-source hardware and software. The robot is compact, very robust and features numerous LEDs that provide immediate feedback on the robot’s perceptions, touch-sensitive keys, an accelerometer, two independent motors, a microphone, speakers and much more. It is designed and suitable for use in all educational contexts from primary schools to universities.
  • Simple programming interfaces: Thymio enables you to discover the world of robotics and to learn a robot’s language. Everyone can grow at their own pace, starting with six plug-and-play pre-programmed modes and advancing through increasingly sophisticated programming options (visual, block-based, full text code) in order to develop computational thinking and coding skills, as well as transversal skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  • Rich learning resources and ecosystem: One of the key strengths of Thymio in supporting compulsory education is that the platform comes with exciting learning journeys based on ready-to-use educational activities that empower, inspire, and raise curiosity in users of all ages, whose expertise may range from novice to proficient. Building these diverse STEAM and so-called 21st century transversal skills through multi-faceted learning journeys, such as those shared among members of the Thymio and Mobsya community hub, encourages active involvement in digital society.

Come and join the community of teachers and supporters of educational robotics with Thymio!

Contact(s):
Website:
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Cellulo

The Cellulo robots allow visualizing in a tangible manner what is intangible in learning, and mediating learning activities.

The National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) in Robotics is an organization funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) which brings together researchers from all over the country in the development of new human-centered robotic technologies with the objective of improving the quality of life.

As part of the research projects undertaken with the support of the NCCR Robotics, the teams of the Computer-Human Interaction Lab for Learning & Instruction (CHILI) and the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LSRO) have developed the Cellulo robot.

Between 2014 and 2018 (corresponding to the second phase of the NCCR) the Cellulo project focused on the development of a modular, manually controlled robot designed to integrate cross-curricularly into all types of teaching and subjects.

In its first iteration, Cellulo allowed for rich interactions with learners, offered a wide range of pedagogical activities, and seamlessly integrated into classrooms and universities.

This versatility paved the way for the exploration of three application areas:

 

Gamified rehabilitation

Learning activities

Human-robotic swarm interaction for education

 

Cellulo for “gamified” rehabilitation:
This project aims to provide a tool for rehabilitation that is playful, practical, easy to use and intuitive by using these tangible robots as agents and game objects.

For example, the first game developed by the research team is based on the classic Pacman and allows the design of exercises targeting arm motor skills. This game is designed iteratively with the participation of stroke, brachial plexus and cerebral palsy patients (18 in total) and seven therapists in four different therapy centers. A number of game elements are designed to adjust speed, accuracy, range of motion and level of challenge.

 

Swarm human-robotic interactions for education: 

In 2021, with funding provided by the “Grassroot Project” facility established by the NCCR Robotics, research teams from the Computer-Human Interaction Lab for Learning & Instruction and the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab collaborated to further develop the Cellulo concept.

Leveraging the expertise of these two labs and exploiting the results collected around Cellulo, the team developed the Cellulo Modulo, a revised and improved version of its predecessor aimed at increasing its integration capacity.

This new design proposes a configuration divided into three modules: the main module containing the means of locomotion and control between the modules, a module containing the battery and finally, the module known as “user interaction” which allows the Cellulo Modulo to be paired with other tools or objects. In particular, the Cellulo-Mori allows the connection of the Modular Origami Robot (Mori) designed by the RRL to the interaction module of the Modulo Cellulo.

 

Development of educational activities: 

 

  • Writing:

Within this application area, CHILI researchers are developing pedagogical activities that take advantage of the Cellulo’s capabilities. In particular, they are studying the role of tangible interactive robots in supporting letter writing for children with attention and visual-motor coordination problems.

Three features of the Cellulo robotic platform, specifically haptic information, autonomous movement, and synchronized behavior of multiple robots, allow for increased multi-sensory feedback through the letter writing process. The haptic features allow each child to receive instant individual feedback, the autonomous movement causes the robot to reproduce the layout while the synchronized behavior of the robots allows for collaborative game design.

  • Windfield:

This learning activity developed to demonstrate the potential of Cellulo in the classroom as part of standard school activities, is a so-called “semi-gamified” activity where students learn how atmospheric pressure results in winds through a robotic simulation of “hot air balloons” over Europe. There are high and low pressure points of different intensities that create outward and inward winds respectively at a certain distance; the strength of these winds decreases with the square of the distance. The wind force at a given point on the map is then calculated as the vector sum of the wind forces created by all pressure points.

  • Coordinate Systems:

This activity was developed to teach children the usefulness of a coordinate system to describe the position of an object. Through a game in groups of 3, students seek guidance to find an astronaut lost in space.

 

 

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Roteco: Robotic Teacher Community

The goal of the Roteco project is to create a vibrant community of schoolteachers interested in the field of robotics and computational thinking. Sharing classroom practices around educational robotics, informing about new developments in the field and opportunities for training are the foundation. To support the growth of this robotic teacher community the Roteco project designed, developed and has community managers for the www.roteco.ch web platform. If you are a teacher or have interest in the world of educational robotics come and join us!

Today we live in a digital society that requires the acquisition of new skills related to computer science, such as computational thinking or coding skills as well as cross-curricular skills, such as communication, collaboration and creativity.

One possible tool to foster these skills in schools is educational robotics. However, the question is how to bring educational robotics into schools?

This is where Roteco comes in. We aim to create a community of teachers interested in educational robotics and offer training in this field in order to facilitate the sharing and uptake of educational robotics activities. As part of the project, a teacher training concept, an online platform for collaboration and various teaching resources were developed.

 

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Computational Thinking Assessment

The goal of this initiative is to build a test to gauge computational thinking skills in a valid and reliable fashion. We are building, testing and validating a test that can be taken by anyone regardless of their previous knowledge or expertise in computer science.

This initiative builds a new assessment tool to measure computational thinking (CT) among science and engineering students.

Why is this needed?

First, the pervasiveness of digital tools and the use of computational methods is essential in contemporary sciences and engineering, which turns CT into a vital set of skills for current scientists and engineers. Thus, CT becomes a pillar of scientific and engineering education alongside other foundations traditionally considered as mathematics and physics.

Second, in accordance with the current relevance assigned to CT, EPFL has adopted CT as a subject for first-year students in an attempt to promote a transferable base in solving problems computationally. EPFL is offering an introductory course on CT and it intends to further implement courses for all degree programs, from Bachelor’s to Masters’ through to PhD. Therefore, we seek to advance our evidence-based understanding of how to best teach and learn CT such that teaching practice can be informed. Measuring learners’ CT in a reliable and valid fashion is necessary as it will help to identify effective methods.

Third, the tools built up to date to evaluate CT skills are, to the best of our knowledge, not sufficient for our intended use: they are scarce, have multiple shortcomings for evaluating CT skills in higher education, and are not validated for populations of engineering and science students.

A lunch&LEARN session was dedicated to this initiative, watch it below:

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Collision Hours

Collision Hours are meant to bring together different EdTech startups to have the opportunity to meet with other, like-minded startups to exchange and share expertise, best practices, connections and contacts or just to ponder on a common problem in and around EdTech together.

The Swiss EdTech Collider is committed to creating opportunities and platforms for EdTech startups to meet other EdTech peers to discuss opportunities, and showcase their innovations. 

In order to do so, the Swiss EdTech Collider initiated the ‘Collision Days / Hours’ initiative in 2019, which offers EdTech startups the chance to get to know other EdTech startups as well as experts in and around EdTech and education.

One of the best ways for an EdTech startup to grow and move forward is to have the opportunity to meet with other, like-minded startups to exchange and share expertise, best practices, connections and contacts, or simply to ponder together on a common problem encountered. 

The “Swiss EdTech Collider Collision Days” are dedicated days that we mark in our calendars and on which we explicitly invite startups to join us either virtually or in person at the Swiss EdTech Collider offices to foster valuable and impactful collisions among peers. 

Note that during the pandemic, the Swiss EdTech Collider remains flexible and will conduct virtual Collision Hours instead of Collision Days.

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Join the Collider

Join the Swiss EdTech Collider – a hub and centre for ambitious entrepreneurs and startups who aim to transform education and learning with technology.

The Swiss EdTech Collider, a not-for profit association founded in 2017 located in the dynamic and vibrant EPFL Innovation Park and in close proximity to the Center LEARNis Switzerland’s first collaborative and membership space dedicated to ambitious entrepreneurs transforming education and learning through technology.

We offer both a modern, physical co-working space as well as a virtual space for our members, where like-minded EdTech startups and entrepreneurs can meet and share expertise, knowledge, best practices and develop co-operations and synergies in creating new innovative tools for the support of the digital transformation in education and learning in a variety of industries.

We believe Switzerland has the potential to become a global leader in education technology. With EPFL taking leadership in the European MOOC landscape and research in learning sciences, Switzerland has become an important hub for digital education. This development is further fuelled by EPFL professors leading cutting-edge research projects on learning technologies and digital innovation.

Join the Swiss EdTech Collider – a hub and centre for ambitious entrepreneurs and startups who aim to transform education and learning with technology.

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ASPIRE

Graasp for open evidence-based research in digital education.

Graasp is an open-access, GDPR-compliant cloud platform for digital education developed and hosted at EPFL in the framework of national and international initiatives.

It is exploited worldwide by universities and schools for blended active learning or digital knowledge sharing and has currently over 165’000 users.

A driving feature of the platform is that—provided consent—it is possible to collect data regarding teacher and student (learning analytics), which can be used not only for pedagogical awareness and reflection, but also for evidence-based research.

ASPIRE is empowering researchers, beyond the current platform stakeholders, to access data generated within Graasp.

The project is carried out collaboratively by EPFL, HEIA-FR, and HEP-BEJUNE, covering as such 7 cantons and two linguistic Swiss areas in order to facilitate a national-wide adoption.

In addition, the project combines research competencies in human computer interaction, software engineering, data science, and education.

Contact(s):
Denis Gillet - denis.gillet@epfl.ch
Website:
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iHub4Schools

Accelerating digital innovation in schools through Regional Innovation Hubs and a whole-school mentoring model.

iHub4Schools aims to accelerate whole-school digital innovation in schools by establishing Regional Innovation Hubs in more than 75 European schools in five European countries.

Those hubs are implementing project-approaches as well as multiple school-to-school mentoring structures.

This is achieved by supporting the collaboration between 600 digitally advanced -and less advanced- teachers through a variety of peer learning approaches and engagement structures.

iHub4Schools is also developing an agile, whole-school, mentoring model that embraces both inter- and intra-school levels, and integrates novel evaluation approaches as well as the Learning Analytics Toolbox.

Long-term sustainability is ensured by a systematic stakeholder engagement strategy that will integrate initiatives and partners on a local level (municipalities, school boards, teacher associations and network).

Regional impact is sustained by the upskilling of the teachers and school heads to scale and sustain the innovation in and across the schools.

Contact(s):
Denis Gillet - denis.gillet@epfl.ch
Website:
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Swiss Digital Skills Academy

Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Open Educational Platforms (OEPs) are playing a key role in strengthening digitalization in higher education. Up to now, their development and deployment have been mainly carried out by IT services and media experts. The creation of a Swiss Digital Skills Academy is enabling and empowering professors and educators in higher education institutions, as well as HEP/PH students to take control of and to fully adopt their digital ecosystem in their educational practices.

Digital skills learning modules are co-designed and federated between Swiss Academic institutions and rely on shared open, i.e., freely accessible, resources and platforms.

The knowledge transfer is delivered as short workshops or learning sessions, as well as more complete modules or programs targeting Certificates of Advanced Studies (CAS).

The project is organized in work packages led by partners in charge of the conception and the creation of the associated learning modules.

EPFL is providing as an in-kind contribution the Graasp platform, an OEP, to support creation, hosting and sharing of OERs by the interested partners.

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Virtual Exchange Program

A credit exchange program that gives our students the opportunity to participate in online courses offered by our partners.

The Virtual Exchange Program (VEP) is a collaboration between international universities to offer a selection of online, for-credit courses to their students.

The partner universities allow students to take online courses from any VEP partner institution, partake in the exam at their own campus, and make the credits gained for that course count towards their academic degree program.

This increases each partner’s portfolio of online-credit-courses, provides more flexibility and expands the offering for students, adds an online international experience for them and lecturers, and serves as a kick-starter for further international collaboration between students, teachers and students, or teachers.

 

Since the start of the program, in December 2017, we have offered a portfolio of about 50 for-credit online courses per calendar year.

We have piloted the processes and procedures for registration, enrolment, examination, credit conversion and transfer of transcript, and we served almost 1800 students from 12 different universities in those first three years.

We are now looking into opportunities to grow the portfolio of courses and expand our alliance or forge new alliances to exchange online for-credit courses.

Contact(s):
Anne Helsdingen - Anne.Helsdingen@epfl.ch
Website:
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