Catching a Wave, and Measuring It By Quentin Hardy, New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.
An exciting new robot has been introduced by Computer scientist James Gosling, of Liquid Robotics. His robots called Wave Gliders, are unmanned maritime vehicles that have the ability to perform the tasks that (very expensive) ships used to fulfill.
“James Gosling wants to network the world’s oceans.
Mr. Gosling is transforming a fleet of robots that move out in the ocean to measure everything from weather to oil slicks, sharply reducing many of the costs of ocean-related businesses.
If his plans sound rather extreme, consider this: Mr. Gosling designed of one of the most influential and widely used computer languages, Java. The Silicon Valley company he joined, Liquid Robotics, has raised serious money to accomplish the mission — $40 million, including $22 million in June from VantagePoint Capital Partners and Schlumberger, the oilfield services company.
Liquid Robotics’ product, a Wave Glider, is about the size of a surfboard. Using a wave-based propulsion system and two solar panels to fuel its computers, the robots travel slowly over the ocean, recording data. The sensor data is crunched onboard by low-power cellphone chips, and then shipped by satellite or cellphone to big onshore computers that do complex analysis.
Getting a computer out into the middle of the ocean is a pretty big challenge, but that is the attractive thing…Three-quarters of the planet is ocean, and it’s still dark to us.
Liquid Robotics is working toward networking tens of thousands of the craft, adding sensors and onboard computing capability so the robots can manage themselves during oceangoing projects lasting years. Right now, the robots work solo.
This is a bit like 1960 in the Space Age, when they had launched just a few satellites, said Edward Lu, a former astronaut who is in charge of “innovative applications” at the company. Space is now a normal part of life, used for television transmission, credit card transactions and driving directions. We can do the same thing with the sea.
Liquid Robotics has sold Wave Gliders to the Federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…The company has built about 70 Wave Gliders since 2009, largely for use by the petroleum industry and marine scientists. The company builds another 40 of the devices every three months… Other firms, like iRobot, also make seagoing robots with sensors, but these tend to be used for underwater work and aren’t designed to be networked. When the Wave Gliders talk with each other, Mr. Gosling said, they can be used to signal other robots to join them on missions like measuring the size of an oil slick or an algae bloom, or determining patterns of mid ocean currents, alerting ships to avoid or seek them, saving on fuel costs… He also needs to figure out ways the robots can navigate on their own. Currently onshore pilots manage 10 to 15 gliders at a time… There are other hazards. One craft was bitten by a shark. It lost a sensor, but still managed to make it to a rescue craft… The robots move at about one and a half knots, powered by underwater wings connected to the surface vessel by a 22-foot strap…As further proof of concept, the company hopes to pilot a Wave Glider through a hurricane.” read more…
Level: Intermediate -Advanced
Language Skills: reading, speaking, writing, and listening.
Time: approximately 2 hours.
Materials: article excerpt, vocabulary, questions for comprehension and discussion, video with questions.
Objectives: Students will review the information concerning the new Wave Glider robots. At the end of this lesson students will discus their own opinions as to what they think about these, and similar robots. Students will practice their reading, speaking, writing, and listening skills.
I. Pre-Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students read the title of the post, along with the title of the article. Then have students survey the photos to see if they can predict what the article will be about.
Stimulate background knowledge
Directions: Have learners brainstorm to build a list of all of the words they can think of connected to the terms: robot, ocean, Wave Glider, Java. Have students use a brainstorming (see sample from UIE) chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students infer the meanings of the words in bold (from the article) and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.
- James Gosling wants to network the world’s oceans.
- Mr. Gosling is transforming a fleet of robots…
- …to measure everything from weather to oil slicks…
- Mr. Gosling designed of one of the most influential and widely used computer languages, Java.
- Using a wave-based propulsion system…
- The sensor data is crunched onboard by low-power cellphone chips
- …then shipped by satellite or cellphone to big onshore computers that do complex analysis.
- … adding sensors and onboard computing capability…
- …Edward Lu, a former astronaut who is in charge of innovative applications...
- When the Wave Gliders talk with each other…they can be used to signal other robots to join them on missions…
- He also needs to figure out ways the robots can navigate on their own.
- The robots move at about one and a half knots…
- Reading Comprehension
Directions: Have students match the letter of the phrases to complete the sentences taken from the article.
1. James Gosling wants___
a. to network the world’s oceans.
b. to capture sharks.
c. to sail around the world.
2. Mr. Gosling designed___
a. a ship
b. a computer.
c. of one of the most influential and widely used computer languages, Java.
3. The Silicon Valley company he joined___ has raised serious money to accomplish the mission.
a. Wave gliders
b. Silicone Valley Computers
c. Liquid Robotics
4. Liquid Robotics’ product, a Wave Glider, is about the size___
a. a boat
b. of a surfboard.
c. a ship
5. Using a wave-based propulsion system and two solar panels to fuel its computers, the robots___
a. travel slowly over the ocean, recording data.
b. travel fast recording data.
c. don’t travel but remain stationary.
6. Three-quarters of the planet is___
c. ocean, and it’s still dark to us.
7. Liquid Robotics is working toward___ adding sensors and onboard computing capability.
a. gathering more people to work the crafts
b. networking tens of thousands of the craft
c. gathering more money
8. Right now, the robots work___
c. with other units.
9. ___is now a normal part of life, used for television transmission, credit card transactions and driving directions.
10. The company has built___ largely for use by the petroleum industry and marine scientists.
a. about 70 Wave Gliders since 2009
b. about 45 Wave Gliders since 2009
c. about 50 Wave gliders since 2009.
III. Post Reading Tasks
- Reading Comprehension Check
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
- Discussion/Writing Tasks
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. After, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics.
1. What other future uses can you think of for the Wave Glider?
2. Discuss whether the Google Self-Driving car is really a robot.
3. What are the potential uses for robots to assist the elderly?
4. Discuss the potential use of robots in emergency situations (e.g., natural disasters, crimes, medical emergencies, military)
IV. Listening Activity
Robert Woo regains the ability to walk with help from an exoskeleton.
While Listening Tasks
Questions for focused listening
Directions: Click on the link to view the video and have students answer the following questions.
1. How did Robert Woo feel about using the exoskeleton at first?
2. What was the name of the rehabilitation Center?
3. Basically, what does the exoskeleton help people to do?
4. What are the steps to using the exoskeleton?
5. how many children does Woo have and what are their ages?
6. Because his children watch cartoons, who did they think their father was turning into?
7. How did the other patients feel when they saw Woo using the exoskeleton?
Questions for Discussion
1. In groups, have students make up questions they would like to ask Robert Woo, or anyone else in the video.
2. Discuss other ways the exoskeleton might be used to assist people.
Please come back again.