Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Robots to Teach Japanese Students

High school looks to robots as way to foster whiz kids

OSAKA (AP) Ten teenagers huddled over a Transformer-like robot in a classroom are pioneers in the "super science" initiative -- a nationwide effort in public education to nurture future leaders in technology.

"But educators have noticed for some time that the abilities of Japanese students in science and math have been going down," said Hideo Tsuchida, one of the teachers for the robotics class at Tennoji High School.

The high school in the city of Osaka will receive 50 million yen over three years in government money meant to produce technological whiz kids.

The government has budgeted 1.3 billion yen a year for the program, splitting the money between 82 high schools, which are using their grants to focus on rocket engineering, genetics and solar energy.

Robotics is one area where Japan is still among the world's leaders, according to Shigeaki Yanai of the Japan Robot Association, a trade group.

The Japanese market for next-generation robots is expected to grow to 1.5 trillion yen by 2010, and to more than 4 trillion yen by 2025, according to the association.

An official from Japanese robot-maker Vstone Co. Ltd. was an invited guest at the class, but he was no education expert and his presentation was heavy on jargon. The students looked puzzled.

"Robots are about dreams," he said, adding he wasn't sure about his future occupation. "I want to make the robot do something spectacular, maybe make it dance."

The Japan Times Online


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