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UT Tyler Alumnus Develops Educational Robot Car Kit, Makes Programming Fun

March 26, 2014

Media Contact:  Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
Marketing and Communications
The University of Texas at Tyler
903.565.5769 or 903.539.7196 (cell)

The University of Texas at Tyler alumnus Dalong “Sam” An of Dallas has co-developed a smartphone programmable robotic car drone kit.

He helped create the kit for the Kickstarter project called Rekam-DR1 to teach young students basic programming skills and introduce them to STEM fields.

The kit comes with everything to build a 4-wheel drive robotic car, which runs on a unique seven-command operating system. Additions within the kit include sensors, machine arms, cameras, mirrors and K’Nex pieces.

“Existing smart car/robot kits are good, but they take way too much time to code for the car/robot to do anything cool,” An said. “The word ‘rekam’ means ‘maker.’ Anyone can use the Rekam-DR1. It’s simple, powerful and fun.”

In order to enhance the interaction experience, a Bluetooth device is added onto the car controller, enabling users to remotely program their robotic car from a tablet or smart phone wirelessly. An has already visited a group of fifth graders at a Dallas area elementary school to demonstrate the robotic car design, which took about 15 months to complete.

“When it comes to an educational robot, there is a trade off between interaction experience and program education,” An said. “Basically, the more programming work you leave for the students, the less interaction they will experience. Here is a programmable robot car with a great software platform that hides the overall set up of the program, which leaves the student with a simple operating system so they can learn and have fun.

“We even have app for it, with which you can push buttons to control the drone, and at the same time, you can see the codes generated by that button. Instant interaction and learn by example – you can’t beat that.”

An hopes to share the Rekam-DR1 car kits with many more as the project progresses.

“I just want to make programming easy and fun for others,” he said.

A native of China, An graduated from UT Tyler in August 2013 with a master of science in mathematics. He currently works as a project lead and designer for Leo Innovations, LLC.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler features excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 7,500 high-ability students. UT Tyler offers courses at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine as well as a location in Houston.

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