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University of Iowa News Release


May 18, 2009

UI offers 'Overhead Bots' workshops at Children's Museum

Kids will have the opportunity to design and build robots during a series of upcoming workshops at the Iowa Children's Museum in Coralville that are sponsored by two University of Iowa centers and the National Science Foundation.

The young inventors will create tiny robots using simple analog circuitry and environmentally friendly solar cells. They'll decorate the robots with colorful embellishments; then, the robots will be placed on overhead projectors, where the light will bring them to life. As the autonomous creatures move around, vibrant art will be projected onto the walls of the museum. After the activity, children are welcome to explore the museum and can take their robots home.

Overhead Bots workshops are offered on five Sundays: May 31, June 7, June 14, June 21 and June 28. All workshops will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the museum except the June 7 workshop, which is set for noon to 4 p.m. in the children's area of the Iowa City Public Library as part of the Iowa Arts Festival.

Children ages 6 and up can participate; registration and adult chaperones are required. To register, call Iowa Children's Museum Director Deb Dunkhase at 319-625-6255, ext. 210 or e-mail Museum admission is free to registered participants who attend workshops at the Iowa Children's Museum.

The workshops are free thanks to a National Science Foundation grant to the Spatial Perception Action and Memory Lab, which is part of the Children's Research Laboratory in the UI Department of Psychology. Support is also provided by the Delta Center, funded through the Spellman Rockefeller fund of the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.

"It's a great opportunity for active learning," said UI Psychology Professor John Spencer, director of the Delta Center. "And it's a perfect example of how art and science can interface. Whether you're creating a sculpture or solving a scientific problem, you're actively using your body and mind to make new discoveries."

The workshops will be led by Christian Faubel, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institut für Neuroinformatik in Bochum, Germany. Faubel developed the concept in collaboration with artist Ralf Schreiber. Faubel and Schreiber debuted their installation at the Festival for Forgotten Media in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2005, and have exhibited it at many museums, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, France. UI researchers will volunteer at the workshops and train children's museum staff.

"One of the goals of the National Science Foundation is to bring science out to the community," said Spencer, a faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "It's a fantastic model for making science applicable to real life, and it should be a lot of fun."

For information on the Iowa Children's Museum, visit Delta Center information is available at, and Obermann Center information is available at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Deb Dunkhase, Iowa Children's Museum, 319-625-6255, ext. 210,; John Spencer, UI Department of Psychology, 319-335-2482,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070,