Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cheetah Robot - updated

Members of the MIT Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory
In my post of April 22, 2013 (Cheetah Robot text to improve reading skills) I wrote about a robot innovation from MIT that was more efficient than other available running robots. I used the text not only for class discussion, but also for a variety of language material useful for the development of students' reading skills.

Recently (September 15, 2014) the news website of MIT reported that the Cheetah Robot has been updated, and is now able to run outside, untethered.

MIT News website:

The information is interesting for my students because of the technical details of the innovation, and is interesting for me because of the language material of the text, and the way it can be compared to the earlier text.

As for the first text, there is an accompanying video (2:35) that shows the robot running and jumping, while two members of the team explain how it works. Neither is a native speaker of English, but this is good practice for students to understand a variety of accents.

As in my first post about the Cheetah Robot, the following features can be noted:

Areas of text that explain or give examples:
  • In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward.
  • ... by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as ...
  • The percentage of time a leg spends on the ground rather than in the air is referred to in biomechanics as a "duty cycle"; the faster an animal runs, the shorter its duty cycle.
  • etc.
In fact, most of the article explains and gives examples.

Verbs of what researchers "do":
  • develop
  • implement
  • take (robot) for a test run
  • estimate
  • hypothesize
  • find
  • control
  • design
  • present (details of robot)
  • model
  • reason
  • control
Examples of language that indicates change:
  •  They actually increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can fly more while keeping the same frequency.
  • In experiments, the team ran the robot at progressively smaller duty cycles, ...
  • ... the robot was able to run at higher speeds without falling.
Comparatives / superlatives:
  •  fastest / faster
  •  more force
  • harder
  • rougher
  • more stable, agile and dynamic
  • the faster an animal runs, the shorter its duty cycle
  • higher
  • louder
  • etc.
Verbs of movement:
  • run
  • jump
  • accelerate
  • ramp up to
  • pump its legs
  • bound
  • gallop
  • sprint
  • propel forward
  • race
  • cycle their legs
  • stride
  • fly
  • run over
  • trotting
  • cantering
  • galloping
  • hop
  • fall
In addition, this text has these useful language features:

  • successfully implemented
  • recently took the robot for a test run
  •  eventually reach speeds of up to 30 mph
  • really fast
  • actually increase
  • actually control
  • biomechanically distinct gaits
  • relatively simple
  • easily split
  • progressively smaller
  • highly dynamic
Phrases for speed:
  • accelerate to
  • ramp up to top speed
  • at a steady clip
  • reach speeds of up to
  • propel forward
  • increase their stride
  • high-speed gait
  • fraction of a second
  • maintain forward momentum
  • triple the force
  • run at higher speeds
Tenses used:
  • simple present
  • present perfect
  • simple past
  • future with "will"
  • present progressive
I like to use texts in my lessons that students will find interesting, and also focus on the useful (or instructive) language features of that text. I feel that this text, and the innovation, will be useful in both these areas.

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