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MIT’s Robotic Flower Garden Designed to Grow a Love of STEM

MIT's robotic garden moves and lights up in four different colors. (Photo credit: Jason Dorfman/CSAIL)
MIT’s robotic garden moves and lights up in four different colors.
(Photo credit: Jason Dorfman/CSAIL)

A team from MIT recently showed off a robotic flower garden with adjustable lights and moveable petals at the school’s Hour of Code event. The idea behind the garden is to get kids — particularly girls — interested in building and programming their own electronics.

The garden consists of 16 tiles that are controlled via Arduinos. Each tile houses multiple flowers of different varieties, including origami lilies and tulips. A clickable user interface that shows the flowers in each tile, allows users to alter garden easily, by opening and closing flowers or changing the color of embedded LEDs. More advanced users can operate the garden by working directly with the code.

“Students can see their commands running in a physical environment, which tangibly links their coding efforts to the real world,” says Lindsay Sanneman, who is lead author on a paper regarding the robots. “It’s meant to be a launchpad for schools to demonstrate basic concepts about algorithms and programming.”

In the future, the team hopes to add an interactive audio component with microphones and music, so that sound and motion can be synchronized.

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