“The greater importance of free and open source hardware is that the student can master the technology and gain its autonomy: this way, he/she can effectively innovate, creating new products from open source solutions”. The phrase is credited to professor Douglas Sulis da Costa, a free and open source software enthusiast and one of the founders of Atto Educacional, focused on teaching robotics to children and adolescents in high school. Douglas attended the 16th International Free Software Forum, recently held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he took part in a roundtable with the theme “Open Source Hardware Educational Robotics”.
Besides him, Claudio Olmedo, a well-known militant of free hardware in Brazil and co-founder of Centro Maker, the first company specialized in free hardware for Makers, also attended the meeting, as well as Enoque Alves, Master in Computer Science and a member of “Jabuti Edu” project, and Germano Postal, Master in Mechanical Engineering, who moderated the debate. The main subject was basically “how Brazilian industry can promote and make money with free and open source hardware development?”, a question raised by many, and always controversial by the “proprietary nature” of computer systems developed in Brazil.
The good news for the hardware and free software community and enthusiasts is that this scenario has been changing in recent years, albeit at a slow pace. Professor Douglas, for example, after much applying Piaget dynamics when teaching robotics at the classroom, stimulating children and adolescents to think about a problem and collaboratively get a solution using basic concepts of engineering, electronics and computer programming, said that only in 2006 he achieved the financial support to create Atto Educacional.
“Jabuti Edu” Project
Alongside Atto Educacional proposal, the “Jabuti Edu” project introduces principles of programming into play through an educational robot created using a 3D printer. Developed collaboratively by jabutiedu.org community, the robot works similarly to a radio-controlled car, and it is possible to program short sequences of movements and observe the results using only a browser on a mobile device. The central idea of the project is to transform abstract knowledge in concrete knowledge using Logo programming language, aimed to children.
The Jabuti Edu can be used by children as young as 4 years old, since basic education, and then introducing the learning of electronics and robotics in pre-adolescence, between 10 and 12 years, followed by hardware scanning and free and open source software from 15 to 16 years. A curiosity: the name “Jabuti”, a typical Brazilian species, is an allusion to the “turtle” simulation presented in Logo programming language environment.
For Makers by Makers
Imagine a company dedicated to helping people to get a renewed vigor to robotics and free and open source hardware ecosystem innovations (something known by the term “Makers” in technology communities). That is actually the challenge of a company called Centro Maker, which aims to popularize free and open source hardware — and therefore free and open source software too — helping the “Makers” to become truly social entrepreneurs in their professional fields.
Claudio Olmedo, one of the co-founders of Centro Maker, launched at Campus Party Brazil 2015 a project called “The Chestnut” to foster free and open source hardware development. The intention is that “The Chestnut” project costs only 1 dollar, so it can be accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, focusing on developing countries. The project is underway and should be presented during the 1st Latin American Free Hardware Forum in October, which is part of 12th Latin American Free Software Conference (Latinoware).
Educational Robotics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_robotics
Jabuti Edu: http://jabutiedu.org
Atto Educacional on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC81mJMwBYtbDydDtPo7e3Gg/videos
Jabuti Edu – Use Case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vm1GMUr258
Centro Maker: http://www.centromaker.com/
Latinoware 2015: http://latinoware.org/