Robotic tutor visits Beeslack Community High School

Two Heriot-Watt researchers, Amol Deshmukh and Dr. Srini Janarthanam from the department of Computer Science, recently took two robots into Beeslack Community High School in Penicuik. The researchers, led by Professor Ruth Aylett and Dr Helen Hastie, are part of a large European project EMOTE (, which also has partners in Sweden, Germany and Portugal. The team have been creating a learning environment that includes a socially aware robotic tutor and a large touch table. They have been working with teachers to design the robot interaction to be empathic and to understand and adapt to the emotions of the children, while at the same time helping them to revise the map reading skills they have been learning in Geography. Thirty one pupils, aged between 12-14 years, were given a map reading exercise to carry out on a large touch table with one of two robots, EMYS and NAO, helping them along. The researchers wanted to compare the learning experience pupils have interacting with two different types of robots. The EMYS robot has an expressive face but no arms, while the NAO robot (white and orange) has fewer facial expressions but can point with its hands. The NAO emerged as the winner - children liked it better as a tutor. The children thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the robot, and several commented that “It was enjoyable, amazing, fun, fascinating, the robot was very intelligent and helpful”.  The teachers were also excited to see the robot at their school interacting with pupils.

“In this scenario, the teacher stays in charge, teaching the material with the robot providing a novel way of revising what pupils have learned in the classroom”, said Dr. Hastie. “This study shows that a robot tutor can provide an enjoyable experience for pupils and get them excited about learning.”