Shape Robotics was founded in 2015 by Moises Pacheco, David Johan Christensen and Helene Christensen in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their robot, Fable, started as Moises’ PhD project, and is now being tested on hundreds of pupils in many different contexts at Danish schools and associations, including Antvorskov Skole, Trekronerskolen, Coding Pirates and H.C. Ørsted Gymnasiet. We spoke to Morten Baggesen to find out how Fable works, and what robotics can do for education.
Robotics is a rapidly growing sector in the global tech market. How does Shape Robotics fit in to it all?
Very well actually. The company founders had previously consulted for the Lego Mindstorms team and shared the vision of creating a robust robot that’s very easy to use, very fast to assemble and disassemble, open-ended and, last but not least, scalable from third grade to college. In that respect, we believe our product is unique.
Why did you decide to operate in the education space when there are so many possible uses for robotics in a variety of different sectors?
The company was founded by David Christensen (CEO) and Moises Pacheco (CTO), who did robotics research at the Center of Playware, at the Technical University of Copenhagen. Fable, our robot, is based on their area of expertise.
Can you tell us about your modular robot Fable and how the Fable System works?
The system is made of robust active and passive modules that students assemble in seconds by clicking them together. Students can code and control the modules wirelessly via a dongle for PC and Mac (ChromeOS to follow soon). They can also use their smartphone to give Fable emotions and speech. Students can start with simple Blockly coding, move on to Blockly Full and progress to Python. As the Fable system is open-ended, you can extend the robot with Lego or 3D-printed parts.
What skills can teachers expect students to develop when using Fable?
Overall, students will learn how to master and control technology instead of being slaves of technology. In the process, they will learn maths, innovation, creative thinking, and coding. So all STEM check boxes are covered.
How do you see the role of robotics in education developing in the coming years?
Well, some countries – like the UK, The Nordics, Netherlands – are moving a tad faster than others. But robotics and coding are high on the agenda in many countries. Recently, we’ve been impressed by Poland and Hungary’s interest. And surprised that Germany seems to be moving slower.
Can schools trial Fable and is there guidance available for incorporating Fable into their lessons?
Yes, we run a 30-day free trial programme in the Nordics, Holland, Belgium and the UK. It’s been quite successful and since our robots are very robust, we can loan them out several times. It allows the teachers to evaluate the learning potential. We have currently 10 lessons available in English plus six or seven free exercises for inspiration. The quantity will be increased a lot soon and we’ll translate them to four or five major languages.
For more on Shape Robotics, please visit: www.shaperobotics.com