26 May 2009

Teaching Synthetic Psychology with Lego Robots

Tony Prescott and Tom Stafford have won a £6,720 award from the University of Sheffield Learning and Teaching Development Grant Scheme for a project entitled "Teaching Synthetic Psychology with Lego Robots." Details are below:

Title: Teaching Synthetic Psychology with Lego Robots
Investigators: Tony Prescott & Tom Stafford, Department of Psychology
Funded by the University of Sheffield Learning and Teaching Development Grant Scheme
Value: £9,270 (University Contribution £6,720)

Summary: The purpose of the project is to develop robotics-based lab classes that will be used to explore the neural control of behaviour in the Level 1 Psychology module PSY105 "Synthetic Psychology". We will use Lego robots to demonstrate how animal-like behaviour can arise from simple neural circuits controlling wheeled-robots that can respond to light, sound, and contact stimuli. The robot lab classes will give Psychology students the opportunity for traditional ‘hands on’ experience of behaviour without recourse to animal experimentation (something that has ethical, practical, financial and legal implications). Students will design their own control circuits for the robots, meaning that they will have to formulate questions, solve problems and then put their ideas into practice—these are the key elements of experimental science and essential to the curriculum. Additionally the project introduces an important element of current Psychological research—computational modelling—into the curriculum in an accessible way.