Roamer® is an educational robot. It is a development of the Turtle-type-robots originally invented, in the late 1960s, by MIT’s Seymour Papert. The Turtle was part of LOGO – a computer language designed for very young children, but capable of challenging and developing the intellect of much older pupils. Students used LOGO to program solutions to problems, particularly mathematical problems. This involved them in the process of exploring and gaining insights into the fundamental nature of the mathematics. Programming the Turtle to move connected abstract mathematical ideas to the concrete world. It makes mathematics real and meaningful.
The Turtle was programmed from a computer. Roamer took a cut down version of LOGO and put it into the robot added a keypad. Freed from the computer the robot became a practical and inexpensive addition to the classroom.
The first Roamer was launched in 1989.It became a standard in British schools and sold into 27 different countries including the USA. Like the traditional Turtle, its principle educational paradigm was programming. But just as there is a mathematical pattern behind so many “non-mathematical” subjects, Roamer started to provide teachers with a concrete problem solving tool capable providing students with practical ways of understanding key ideas across the whole curriculum, whether it was music, poetry or learning of a foreign language.
The new Roamer not only continues the Turtle tradition, it heralds the future of educational robotics. Yes, students learn through programming, but they can also interact with the robot with Human Computer and Human Robot Interactions (HCI and HRI).
Roamer versus Lego Mindstorms
Fifteen years after Valiant launched its Turtle, and ten years after the appearance of the Classic Roamer, Lego launched Mindstorms. Backed by an International brand and powerful marketing it quickly became the face of educational robotics. It is an excellent product, but it does not offer the same experience as that offered by Turtle type robots. There are overlaps, but with Lego, students primarily learn through the process of building the robot. Roamer’s value is in using the robot. It is out of the box ready for action even with the youngest of children and the most techno-phobic teacher.