UNH robot visits Bailey students for National Engineers Week
UNH robot visits Bailey students for National Engineers Week
Posted on 03/01/2016
This is the image for the news article titled UNH robot visits Bailey students for National Engineers Week

WEST HAVEN, March 1, 2016 — The guest instructor stood quietly in the back of a Bailey Middle School classroom last Wednesday morning, waiting for the next period to start and taking in her new surroundings.

Ada, who was visiting from the University of New Haven, remained subdued even as students filtered into the room, giving only one-word greetings to the wide-eyed, excited middle-schoolers. But that didn’t hamper the youngsters’ enthusiasm for her presentation that day.

That’s because Ada is a robot

University of New Haven graduate students Devon Clark and Daniel Walnycky and UNH Elder Family Endowed Chair and Director of the Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group Ibrahim Baggili brought Ada to Bailey STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and computer students for National Engineers Week, which was celebrated across the country from Feb. 21-27.

robot
Bailey offers a half-year STEM course with teachers Jeanne Vauiso and Cynthia Messina to its seventh- and eighth-grade students to give them a glimpse of what they can learn in West Haven High School’s more extensive STEM classes.

Clark created Ada, named after a woman who many consider to be the first English computer programmer, to help teach others about cyber security, including how people can prevent their online accounts from getting hacked, how to choose strong passwords, and ways websites can transmit viruses to computers.

Ada the robot can tell if someone’s email has been hacked, give weather reports, quiz users on cyber security, give tips cyber security tips, tell jokes, and read aloud news articles on cyber security.

“This was the first time we’ve brought her to a local school for a presentation,” Clark said. “But she’s been out at UNH events like Homecoming, and the goal is to encourage other schools to build a robot like Ada for themselves by downloading our program and putting their own spin on it.”

Clark told students about the coding and program that enable Ada to respond to questions and search online databases, and that users can interact with her verbally and by using a tablet computer attached to one of her “arms.”

While Ada is advanced in the technological area, her appearance is simple: A second tablet screen sitting atop a metal pole is considered her head, which swivels every few minutes and shows a pair of blinking eyes. Her arms and barebones “outfit” are blue and white panels created from a 3-D printer. 

ada

Students had a chance to take photos with Ada, ask her if their email has been hacked, hear jokes, and test out her cyber security quiz function. 

But Bailey students didn’t only hear about Ada and the work it took to create her. They also learned about other types of robots, such as driverless cars, as well as the ethics of using robots in different industries.

"It was a great experience for our STEM and computer students to see some real-life application. It promoted interest in studying engineering and technology fields in the future,” Vauiso said. “We hope to continue building on our partnership with UNH and to bring additional higher education experiences to our students."

Contact: Communications Director Susan Misur, 203-937-4300 X7114; susan.misur@whschools.org