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The Matlab Toolbox for the Intelitek Scorbot (MTIS)

An open-source solution for robust integration of the SCORBOT-ER 4u in MATLAB development environments

Intelitek’s SCORBOT line of robots has dominated the educational scene for the past two decades. These versatile articulated robot manipulators for education include the intuitive SCORBASE programming environment. The ability to enable control in any programming language provides advantages, especially in post-secondary settings.

Visit the developers page to learn about and download the MTIS Toolbox!

To that end, Professors Joel Esposito, Carl Wick and Ken Knowles at the United States Naval Academy Systems Engineering Department’s RaVision Group recently developed the MATLAB Toolbox for the Intelitek SCORBOT (MTIS). This open-source toolbox enables user to control the SCORBOT directly using MATLAB®, a high-level language and interactive environment for numerical computation, visualization, and programming used by millions of engineers in both industry and education.

A new study presents in-depth research and findings of the development and usage of the MTIS. The article describes the development process and the toolbox’s features, detailing how the toolbox was beta tested in an introductory robotics class and tested for capability with various projects.

The research included three benchmark tests to compare the old SCORBOT serial interface with new USB interface:

    • Encoder readings: the mean time was observed to measure the joint angles across 1000 trials.
    • Movement time: the mean time was recorded to execute 10cm vertical motion with a desired movement time of 1 second, averaged across 60 moves.
    • Sequences of motions: 100 random motion commands were sent to the SCORBOT and the number of missed commands were recorded (note: unlike with the older RS232 interface, there we no missed motions with the ER 4U).

Below: 3 projects highlighted in the study: Towers of Hanoi Puzzle, Defusing and IED, and Cup Crushing.

MATLAB SCORBOT projects

At the end of a semester-long class, students were asked to rate ease of use and stability of the toolbox. For ease of use, the majority rated “easy” on a scale of “very easy,” “easy,” “moderate,” and “hard.” For stability, the majority responded that the SCORBOT was “rock solid” or “stable after bug fixes.”

Excellent projects have been completed using the MTIS, like the example below:


See more projects completed with the MTIS on YouTube!

Ultimately, it was confirmed that the Intelitek SCORBOT-ER 4U could be successfully incorporated into the environment of the MATLAB toolbox. The toolbox can handle the low-level interfacing, allowing instructors with little expertise to integrate the SCORBOT-ER 4u into robust lab exercises. Being open-source, this capability is available to any MATLAB-licensed facility. This opens a whole new door to opportunities for post-secondary students interested in science and engineering, with market leading, widely available development environment like MATLAB.

Have an example of a MATLAB integrated SCORBOT project? Let us know – we’d love to show it off!


Women in STEM Occupations: Still Growing!

U.S. Report shows no decline in female participation in STEM workforce

The US Census Bureau report released in early September contained encouraging news – the growth of women in the the STEM workforce continues! The proportion of women in STEM increased from 23% in 1990 to 26% in 2011. No doubt all would love to see higher rates of growth, we are still moving in the right direction, despite the challenges of image, lack of mentors, and prevailing attitudes, to name just a few.

With renewed efforts to open up more opportunities for women and change the perception of STEM careers, there is great potential to see the participation rate increase in the years ahead.

Female enrollment in STEM

In nearly all other STEM fields, women have seen either a firm hold or steady increase in numbers since 1990. Additionally, the amount of women receiving advanced degrees in STEM is encouraging. In biological sciences, more than half of the individuals receiving advanced degrees are women, and women make up almost half of science and engineering graduates.

The US Office of Science and Technology Policy have more encouraging figures about the rewards available for girls pursuing STEM education: higher pay, exciting work and the ability to make a difference in the world around them.

Women in STEM earn 33 percent more

Possibly the most encouraging sign we see are the great results in the classroom and STEM programs. As STEM programs mature and classroom methodologies improve, girls are discovering the potential and accomplishing great things– just ask the Rochester, NH, girls who earned gold in Automated Manufacturing Technology at the SkillsUSA national competition!

SkillsUSA AMT Gold winners

Exciting achievements by great role models like these will be a great impetus for girls to consider the rewarding possibilities in STEM!


Intelitek and Boy Scouts Partner to Promote STEM Education

  • Students using EasyC to complete Programming Badge

New Robotic Programming Merit Badge generates a groundswell of excitement for STEM!

With the motto “Be Prepared”, Boy Scouts of America are devoted to helping youths become tomorrow’s leaders. Part of that effort includes over 130 Merit Badges that Scouts can earn in topics from business to backpacking. Confirming the trend that new skills are required for success in tomorrow’s world, one of the newest available badges is the Programming badge, preparing boys for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.”

“Last century, camping was an essential survival skill,” noted Matt Myers, of the Boy Scouts of America STEM initiative, “We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century.” The Boy Scouts of America introduced the new badge that allows scouts to learn how programming makes digital devices useful and fun, thus generating more interest in STEM among youths. To earn the badge, scouts write three programs in three programming languages for three different industrial applications, including the web, games, embedded controls, factory automation, and more. This allows the scouts to see how real programming is used in the workplace.

Boy Scouts Programming Badge

At the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, the response to the Programming Badge revealed the untapped interest in STEM fields. Over 800 scouts completed the programming portion of the badge – the only merit badge that had a line of kids waiting to get in all day long! Scouts from 49 of the 50 states and from overseas waited as long as 2 to 3 hours to work on the programming badge, which also has requirements in the areas of Safety, History and Careers. In the booth at the Jamboree scouts programmed VEX robotics arms using Intelitek’s easyC programming software.

This initiative demonstrates the high demand for robotics skills among youths. It also shows the success that can be had when educational opportunities are made available to youths: increased enthusiasm and awareness of opportunities in STEM. These are key to fulfilling students’ potential and opening up new pathways to career and lifelong success!

Learn more about the Programming merit badge!


The Limitless Rewards of STEM Education

The value of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is evident: our future is in its hands. STEM education creates new generations of critical thinkers, scientifically literate individuals, and driven innovators. STEM-related occupations are at the forefront of innovation and technological advancement, and consequently, these jobs are arguably the most closely bound to a country’s economic growth and sustainability. STEM education across the globe is in higher demand now than ever, and it is vital that STEM programs receive the attention and support that they deserve.

Georgetown University STEM report

This point is bolstered by a 2011 study by Georgetown University asserting that there is a growing demand for STEM talent across a platform of all occupations and fields of study, not just the traditional or “native” STEM industries. Technological advances have called for “more skilled” members of every profession, meaning that STEM education is now often necessary for basic competency. In fact, more non-STEM occupations are seeking students who have obtained STEM skills, so the desirability of individuals with solid STEM proficiency is rapidly increasing.

Moreover, the number of STEM jobs continues to grow worldwide. It is projected that the economic share of these occupations will grow to 5 percent, creating more than a million new jobs by the year 2018 in the U.S. alone. Programs that target both the most elite and highest-performing STEM students as well as those whose talents lie less conspicuously in STEM areas are best positioned to meet this growing demand. By establishing broad-reaching solutions that foster interest in STEM occupations we support universal enrichment and advancement. If we commit to this mission, our world is certain to thank us in return.


Survey Points to Growth in STEM Education Budgets!

Congratulations to our prize winners who participated in our recent survey on the state of STEM education in the USA!

  • iPad winner: Mike Weaver
  • iPod winner: Rick Vaughn
  • iTunes winners: Richard Hill, Tammy Wesson

The survey responses point to encouraging trends in STEM education:

45% of respondents expect their budget for STEM programs to increase.

This is great news! Despite challenging times for many states and districts, STEM education is growing. Only 25% responded that their budgets were shrinking. We know that any growth in this sector is only due to the hard work of those supporting and advocating for STEM – teachers, administrators, public officials, as well as student organizations, parents, mentors and volunteers. We salute all of you!

The fastest growing STEM education program is green technology.

Programs related to alternative energy, sustainability, wind, solar and other green economy topics are on the rise, when measured by definite plans to establish new curriculum. This is more good news! The shortage of skilled workers for the critical green economy is well-documented. Now more students will have the opportunity to develop skills and pursue rewarding, sustainable careers thanks to these new programs. We see this as an example of the education community stepping up to the challenge to provide in-demand skills for tomorrow’s world. We may have a ways to go, but we are on our way!

The most important criteria for selecting new equipment for STEM labs is quality of the equipment.

The quality of the lab equipment directly affects the sustainability of a STEM program. Poor quality equipment can undermine the vigorous efforts it takes to get STEM programs off the ground and engage students. High quality equipment can help keep programs thriving and effective. Our survey respondents reflected this fact by consistently rating quality as the most important factor when selecting equipment.

Thanks again to all who took our survey and congratulations to our winners!


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