Ben Barber students work out with robotic dog

April 4, 2022
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(Photo by Mansfield ISD)

The newest learning tool at Ben Barber Innovation Academy gets a lot of looks when students take it outside their classroom. Blazer 1, as he’s been named by the Robotics II class, is built like and acts like a real dog. He can run and follow along on a walk just like a living, breathing canine. But this four-legged robot is more than a pet.

Mansfield ISD is the first public school district in the country to purchase the Unitree Go 1 Robot. It was purchased using federal grant funds. Blazer 1’s technology is cutting edge and provides a unique programming experience for Mansfield ISD science, technology and math (STEM) students.

“There’s almost no other place in the U.S. that you’re going to find this other than here or a few other high schools right now,” said sophomore Carson DeGroat. “To work with that type of robot, you’d have to be in a company as big as Lockheed or Boston Dynamics.”

The industrial versions of Blazer 1 are now being used to increase security at military bases. A year ago, Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Fla., purchased the first robot dogs for the U.S. military to patrol their base looking for anything out of the ordinary.

Robotics II instructor Jimmie Green’s students are developing code that will allow Blazer 1 to perform similar functions – patrolling the hallways at Ben Barber or being sent to specific locations in the building if there is an emergency. The cameras onboard the robot are able to pair with an iPhone or iPad and transmit a real-time video signal.

The students are using advanced robotics skills to create Blazer 1’s programming. If you visit, you’ll see them in the halls evaluating whether the code was a success. Those test runs have been a great marketing tool for the robotics program.

“I’ve got kids already signing up for Robotics II now. I’ve got a waiting list because they know they’re going to be able to program this and be able to utilize this robot,” said Green. “We walked him around the school, and some of the kids were scared of the robot; some of them embraced him. I think I stole about 40 students from other programs.”

Whether as a tool to recruit more STEM students or a training ground for future careers, the Unitree Go 1 Robot has become a welcome addition to the robotics program.

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