Finch Robot Introduces Kiddies To The Joy Of Programming

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There may be some truth to the idea that some people get turned off coding because it’s often restricted to simple input-output stuff at first, tied to a screen filled with text. Carnegie Mellon, a hotbed of roboticism, has decided to make introductory programming (with an eye to to robots) a little more accessible. They’ve put together a little robot that’s easy to code for and can be used to bring hacking and coding to the real world right off the bat.

It’s called the Finch, and it costs a hundred bucks — for that price you get this little foot-long guy, equipped with wheels, a variety of sensors (temperature, light, etc), accelerometers, a pen mount on its tail, and a few other things. It’s a plug-and-play USB device, and is programmable with Java and Python (other languages will be made available soon). They’ve also put up a bunch of resources at the site for setting up lesson plans, working at home, and such.

My main issue is that it’s both USB-powered (no battery) and offloads its computation to the computer. How will people learn to code for a limited microcontroller with miniscule amounts of RAM and only a couple megs of internal storage? True, remote processing is totally legit (this great quadrocopter does it) but it seems like starting that way is a little backwards. But what do I know?

Seems like a cool idea to get coding off the screen and into the real world — and it also serves as an early recruiting tool for CMU’s excellent robotics programs.

[image credit: SaltPepperFinch on YouTube]