The Design of a Robotic Pet and the Study of its Educational Benefits for Children with Autism
Abstract: In this
thesis I will discuss the development, design, and evaluation of the modified Pleo
system. The modified Pleo system is a robotic dinosaur coded to serve as a client in the
engineering design process for students with autism. I set out to create a system that
leverages the proven benefits of therapy pets for children with autism combined with the
engaging elements of robotics ... read moreto support students as they progress through the design
process. The robotic system is equipped with different modules to better reach students
on a larger portion of the autism spectrum, and to provide teachers a degree of control
over the robot's behaviors. Multiple rounds of user testing were conducted, cumulating
in two final workshops, each divided into three sessions with its own design challenge.
These workshops were designed to observe how the students designed for their robotic
client, how they interacted with one another and the robot, and how they were able to
take the perspective of their client. To better analyze perspective taking, this thesis
breaks the process down into three levels: inquiry, identification, and purpose.
Analysis of workshop video, interview, and user testing data suggests that the modified
Pleo system motivated students to design with a client in mind, and catalyzed social
interaction between students. The data collected in this case study format shows promise
for exploratory robots providing live feedback for students engaging in the design
Thesis (M.S.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering.
Advisor: Kristen Wendell.
Committee: Ethan Danahy, and Jordi Albo-Canals.
Keywords: Robotics, Education, and Special education.read less
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