“Could the next moon mission involve a small step for an ape, but a giant leap for all robots?…a design from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (also known as DFKI) in Bremen, Germany, has landed on the chimpanzee as its model for unmanned lunar missions.” P. Shadbolt CNN
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: This robotic chimp could one day roam the moon By Peter Shadbolt, for CNN
“DFKI hopes its design — called the iStruct Demonstrator will capitalize on the inherent stability of the ape’s quadrupedal stance without losing the chimp’s versatility in climbing, grasping and moving over all types of terrain.
For example, they have quite good quadrupedal walking abilities but they can also perform stand- up motion and walk on two legs — their ability to do this is greater than other animals. This change in posture and walking form interested us… Four-legged locomotion, might be stable — but for speed and agility on flat ground, bipedal walking has the edge. The chimp’s greatest asset is that it can choose which form of movement best fits the situation. Founded by the German space agency DLR, the project has also built Lunar craters in a lab to test the prototype.The robot can walk up and down slopes of up to 20 degrees.
Its biggest advantage, however, comes from the fact that like a real chimpanzees, it has a spine. Because of the embedded electronics in the spine, the overall structure can be used as a 6-axis force-torque sensor, allowing it a range of movement that replicates human and animal mobility. The chimpanzee is not the only animal that is being studied by DFKI as a potential model for a lunar robot. Also on the drawing board are plans for a lunar mantis and a lunar scorpion.”
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- There is renewed interest in moon exploration.
- Deposits of helium-3, is believed to be on the moon.
- Robots might be the ideal solution.
- There is the stability of the ape’s quadrupedal stance.
- Previously, most multi-legged robots have been equipped with single-point contact feet.
- The robotic chimpanzee focuses on a sophisticated system.
- The sensors include an array of 43 individual force sensing resistor (FSR) sensors.
- The robot is also equipped with a distance sensor.
- Like a real chimpanzees, it has a spine.
- It has embedded electronics in the spine.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- The chimpanzee model is a design from Bremen, Sweden.
- The design is called the iStruct Demonstrator.
- They chose the ape because of its size.
- Chimps have good quadrupedal walking abilities and they can also perform stand- up motion and walk on two legs.
- Chimps live longer than most monkeys.
- The project has also built Lunar craters in a lab to test the prototype.
- The German space agency is not happy with the results.
- There are approximately 100 robot chimps thus far.
- The biggest advantage is the robot has a spine like a real chimp.
- Plans for a lion and a lunar bear are also being considered.
Grammar Focus: Preposition Exercise
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, around, over, without, from, during,
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices presented. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
DFKI hopes its design called the iStruct Demonstrator will capitalize___the inherent stability___ the ape’s quadrupedal stance___ losing the chimp’s versatility___climbing, grasping and moving over all types___terrain. The chimpanzee is not the only animal that is being studied___DFKI___ a potential model___ a lunar robot. Also___the drawing board are plans for a lunar mantis and a lunar scorpion. Also___ the prototype stage, the advantage___ this type___ locomotion, Kuhn says, has great potential.
III. Post Reading Tasks
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?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.
1. The following three statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.
“The chimp’s greatest asset is that it can choose which form of movement best fits the situation. They can choose: if the environment won’t let you move in a stable fashion on two legs they can choose four. When the environment improves, two legs allows you to get a better view over the field.”
“For those designing lunar robots, the list of specifications can be daunting. Not only must a robot be able to see, drill, grind, collect and even sieve, it needs to get around a hostile environment in extreme temperatures and in a vacuum.”
“Robots also must offer the greatest strength and versatility for the least payload and have the ability to fix problems if something goes wrong.With the moon 380,000 kilometers away, there’s little margin for error and …it may take three or four generations before the lunar chimp is completely space proof.”
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.