It’s cold outside, so the kids are spending quite a bit of time indoors. Learning. This can get boring, so what can stimulate young brains when nature isn’t exactly luring them outside?

Robotics of course. This is the time of year for robotics competitions, and the preceding preparations. But before getting to the “doing” part of robots, we’ll take a look at some definitions and history.

What is a robot?
The Webster Dictionary offers up a couple of definitions:

“a real or imaginary machine that is controlled by a computer and is often made to look like a human or animal”

“a machine that can do the work of a person and that works automatically or is controlled by a computer”

Simply put, a robot is an autonomous, or semi-autonomous, machine.

Who invented the robot (and when and where)?
According to an article over at BBC, a Greek physicist and inventor, Ctesibius of Alexandria, constructed a water powered clock around 250 BC. While this isn’t what we might think of as a modern robot, it is an autonomous machine, fitting the most basic definition.

Wikipedia credits the science fiction play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech writer Karel Čapek with first using the word in 1920. In this play, the robots are actually synthetic humans, rather than machines. This play was first published in Prague, where it was also first performed in 1921.

Subsequently, American author Isaac Asimov coined the phrase “robotics” in his 1941 short story “Liar!” After this, the use of the concept of robots and robotics, as we know them today, seems to have snowballed in science fiction and, eventually, mainstream society.

In upcoming posts, we will take a look at why and how robots might be used.


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