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$99 CMU robot is computer science learning tool

The Finch is a programmable two-wheeled bot with temperature and other sensors designed to get students interested in basic computer science.

BirdBrain Technologies

I remember programming turtle graphics in Logo when I was in high school. These days, students can learn basic computer science from a robot developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon.

The Finch was co-developed by Tom Lauwers at CMU's Create lab. It's designed to be an interactive, programmable teaching aid to get students into computer science and robotics.

Programmable with Java and Python, the bird-like bot runs on a 15-foot USB cable and comes with temperature and light sensors, a bump sensor, and a three-axis accelerometer that can be used as a mouse.

The machine has a four-color LED beak, speakers, and a pen mount in the tail for drawing capability. It can be programmed to act as an alarm clock or used in a variety of assignments available on its Web site. It's made of sturdy plastic, can survive falls from a table, and is portable in a backpack.

Lauwers launched a start-up called BirdBrain Technologies to produce The Finch and now sells it for $99 apiece. He says it has been tested in high school, university, and after-school programs.

Check out The Finch in the video below.