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Robot Nation

Robot Nation
by Gary Woods

When I was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January one of the most fun booths I wandered into was that of OWI ( In 1980 OWI spun off a division called OWIKits that was tasked with developing an affordable way to introduce students to robotics, science and solar technology.

Their kits are available in five levels of difficulty ranging from beginners with no experience up to advanced circuit board soldering and mechanical assembly which are designed to challenge builders from grade school to adult. Working with educators the company has developed a fully structured teaching curriculum with modules tailored to the kit's unique electronic and mechanical features.

Some of the kits I saw displayed include the Amphibious Solar Vehicle which is a scientifically structured "catamaran" designed boat that reduces water resistance and energy conversion. Another kit was the Triple Action Solar Car. It features a two-way battery source which can use either battery or solar power and is designed as an aerodynamic racer or tractor.

A kit that allows the user to explore the fundamentals of robotics is the Rockit Robot. If it comes in contact with an object or hears a loud noise such as hands clapping the Robot will automatically reverses, then turns left before embarking on a new course.

Moon Walker II was a kit I thought I'd like to try. When assembled this robot uses a phototransistor to sense changes in light and a condenser microphone to sense changes in sound and it converts these stimuli into electrical signals to power a motor. OWI looks like a great place for some educational fun check 'em out!

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc