Mansfield ISD STEM Program Has Gone To The Dogs

Student with robot dog
Photo courtesy of Mansfield ISD

A Cutting Edge Robot Dog

The newest addition to the Mansfield ISD STEM program might be a Unitree Go 1 robot, but there’s nothing artificial about the reception he’s receiving.

Blazer 1, the name given by the Robotics II class, is a Unitree Go 1 Robot dog. For the students at Ben Barber Innovation Academy, he’s their new pet – and more.
Blazer 1 can do virtually anything a real dog can, such as run and follow along on a walk.

Using federal grant funds of $40,000, Mansfield ISD is the first public school district in the country to purchase the Unitree Go 1 Robot. Blazer 1’s technology is cutting edge and provides a unique programming experience for Mansfield ISD science, technology and math (STEM) students.

Robot II instructor Jimmie Green got the idea for Blazer 1 after seeing such a robot in videos and then up close at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Teaching Students Artificial Intelligence

“When we got the opportunity to bring it in-house we did it because we thought it was a good way to teach our students the artificial intelligence side of things,” Green said. “It advances our program. Students have to learn C++ language to program the robot, and that’s something computer scientists use to write programs.

“What the robot does, it learns its environment when it comes out and sees a subject. It learns to inspect things, senses it, and picks it up and sends the message to its motherboard. That’s how it learns how to not bump into walls and walk next to you. It does that as we take it out and it experiences things.”

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

Mansfield ISD Offering Unique Opportunity For Students

Green’s students are developing code that will allow Blazer 1 to perform similar functions. It can patrol the hallways at Ben Barber. If there’s an emergency, Blazer 1 can go to specific locations in the building. The cameras onboard the robot are able to pair with an iPhone or iPad and transmit a real-time video signal.

“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,” sophomore Carson DeGroat said. “To work with that type of robot, you’d have to be in a company as big as Lockheed or Boston Dynamics.”
Green said students are eager to program the robot to perform tasks and they’re excited
that Mansfield ISD has such an advanced piece of technology.

“This technology allows Robotics II students to learn what is being done at an industry level. It advances their knowledge base beyond what is typically offered at the high school level,” he said, adding this is also an opportunity for all high school students.

“Because we have students from all of our high schools who are taking part in the STEM programs at our Ben Barber Innovation Academy, any of our high school students have the opportunity to benefit from learning with the robot.”

And that seems to be exactly what a lot of students are now wanting to do.

“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.”

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Rick Mauch
Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and three granddaughters