Researchers of robots have created small cubes that with no outer moving parts which are able to move forward, climb and jump on top of each other and snap together to form random shapes. The cubes could move even if it is suspended upside down from metallic surfaces. This is the idea which came firstly about in 2011 when a research student at MIT whose name is John Romanishin proposed a new design for modular robots to his professor of robots, Daniela Rus. In the beginning Rus was unsure about it; however, Rus showed a fellow robotics researcher at Cornell University, a video of original robots, based on Romanishin’s design, in action two years later. He was also doubtful at the beginning. This coming November Romanishin, the Scientist in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), as

well as Rus and postdoc Kyle Gilpin are going to present a paper describing their new robots at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. The robots are known as M-blocks and are cubes that have no outer moving parts. Inside each cube is a spinning mass, a flywheel that can reach speeds of 20,000 revolutions per minute. Angular locomotion is transmitted to the cube when the flywheel is braked. Permanent magnets are found along each edge of the M-blocks and along every face, allowing the cubes to attach to each other.

Robotic researchers had previously used the sliding-cube model, where one cube can slide up another and across its top if the two cubes face each other. These sliding-cube models are much more complex than the M-blocks. Existing modular-robot systems are also “statically stable,” the meaning of statically stable is the movement can be stopped at any time, and the robots stay where they are. The MIT researchers were able to simplify their robots’ design by forgoing the principle of static stability. The magnets on the cube essentially bring the cubes into alignment. Each edge of a cube has two cylindrical magnets that are mounted like rolling pins. When two cubes approach each other, the magnets rotate automatically so that north poles align with south and vice versa. Also, we can say that any cube can attach to the face of any other cube. The edges of the cubes are sloping, which means there’s a slight gap between the magnets when the two cubes are joined.

This makes the strong connection between the cubes and anchors the pivot. There are four more pairs of smaller magnets on each face of the cube. The robotic team’s aim is to make them as miniatures, in effect to have a large group of microbots that can self-assemble. Even at their current size and with further refinements, the robots could prove useful. For repairs, or to gain access to environments inaccessible to humans, the mobile cubes could be used to form different types of equipment. The cubes could also be used for transportation of special equipment. The researchers are planning to build an army of 100 cubes and to further refine their robots. In recent year massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become a trend in online education. The term was coined in 2008 by David Cormier, manager of web communications and innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island. The first MOOC was created the previous year, at Utah State University.

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of courses available online at free of cost. You can study anything from business to zoology in your own home at free of cost. MOOCs are designed like college courses but are available to anyone anywhere in the world, at free of cost. You do not receive a college credit, but you will receive a certificate of completion when you complete all coursework. The courses span dozens of subjects and are taught by some of the leaders in those fields. The courses are designed to be interesting, fun and rigorous; the courses are in every subject not just in science, and not just in English. Coursera is the most well-known of the online education facilitators. Their latest numbers indicate that they have 17,000,000 enrollments from students representing 190 countries. There are 240,000 students in their most popular class. Coursera has over 400 courses in more than 20 categories, created by 85 Universities from 16 countries. Their courses are available in 12 different languages.

EdX is another free course site created by founding partners Harvard and MIT and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. EdX offers MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and interactive online classes in subjects including law, history, science,

engineering, business, social sciences, computer science, public health, and artificial intelligence (AI). It has partnerships with third leveled institutions in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, China, and Korea. MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has their own open courseware, where most of the materials used in the teaching of almost all of MIT’s subjects are available on the Web, which is free of charge. There are more than 2,000 courses available. Stanford also has their own online and open courses. These are great options if you like to work at your own pace, as compared to structured classes like those offered at Coursera and EdX.

European institutions are also getting in on the act. Germany-based Iversity offers courses in both English and German and the first courses went online in October this year. Future Learn is a subsidiary of the British Open University and is currently in its beta stage. It already has partnerships with universities across Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. The courses will begin this coming November. For those looking to learn a language, Duolingo offers completely free language education. If you’re interested in learning a valuable skill Code Academy teaches programming and coding in online, free and interactive lessons. Other sites, like Open Culture, are not affiliated with tertiary institutions. On Open Culture, the editor finds the free courses and audio books on the web and hosts them on the site. The courses are audio & video and can be downloaded straight to a computer or mp3 player.

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