TEDx speaker Henry Evans gives out candy and opens his fridge … via robot!

Today in the world’s a pretty amazing place — how quadriplegia hasn’t stopped Henry Evans from shaving, giving out Halloween candy, or even flying over his garden.

In today’s TED Talk — given at TEDxMidAtlantic  — we meet Henry Evans. In 2003, Henry became quadriplegic and mute after a stroke-like attack. But thanks to the help of Robots for Humanity — a collective of folks working to use robots to help the severely disabled live more independent lives — Henry can now shave, fetch himself a drink, even play soccer against other people with quadriplegia.

Henry’s world exploration isn’t limited to the ground, either. Henry can use the subtle movements of his head to fly a drone over his garden, onto his roof, or even on the other side of the country at Robotics For Humanity’s headquarters, all while wearing a virtual reality helmet that immerses himself in the flying robot’s universe.

In the talk, Henry tells how robots have changed his life, and how he hopes they will soon change others’:

For about two years, Robots for Humanity developed ways for me to use the PR2 as my body surrogate,” he says. “I shaved myself for the first time in 10 years … I handed out Halloween candy. I opened my refrigerator on my own. I began doing tasks around the house. I saw new and previously unthinkable possibilities to live and contribute, both for myself and others in my circumstance…

One hundred years ago, I would have been treated like a vegetable. Actually, that’s not true. I would have died.

It is up to us, all of us, to decide how robotics will be used, for good or for evil, for simply replacing people or for making people better, for allowing us to do and enjoy more. Our goal for robotics is to unlock everyone’s mental power by making the world more physically accessible to people such as myself and others like me around the globe.”

Take a few minutes and watch the whole talk. You’ll be glad you did.

Swag for days — a TEDx speaker’s bopping robot

Robotics expert Guy Hoffman creates robots that act more like Pixar’s adorably expressive, imperfect Wall-E than a TI-83. In short, they’re less robotic robots.With a background in animation and acting, Guy was fascinated by the complex ways that humans show emotion through their bodies, and wanted to create equally expressive robots; ones that appear to be more than just animated calculators.

Guy’s robots can improvise on the marimba, freestyle with rappers, dance to Snoop Dogg, and even nuzzle you when you’re sad. They’re charming company, really. “Maybe robots that are a little less than perfect are just perfect for us,” Guy says. Above, a couple of his creations in action.

For more on these robotic wonders, check out Guy’s whole talk here.

Photos: Kids experiment in FabLabs — spaces in schools designed for project-based STEM learning (via FabLab@School and TEDxManhattanBeach)

Paulo Blikstein is head of the FabLab@School program, an extension of Stanford University’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab. FabLab@School aims to install “low-cost digital workshop[s] equipped with laser-cutters, routers, 3D scanners, 3D milling machines, and programming tools” specially-designed for children in schools across the world, so that children will be able to learn by doing, not just hearing.

At TEDxManhattanBeach, Paulo spoke about the project, and the importance of DIY in education. From his talk,  “A school for makers”:

In a world where we are surrounded by technology — technology shapes the world around us — [most of our students] know nothing about how those things work.

We dissemble something — we don’t know what’s inside. We look around — we don’t know how things work. It’s all magical. And it’s amazing that school is not doing more to teach us about how to understand science, how to understand technology, how to understand what’s around us.

…You can’t teach sports unless you have a gym. And it’s the same idea for the 21st-century skills we want to teach kids: innovation, creativity, critical thinking, deep understanding of science and technology. If you don’t have a place to teach these skills, you can’t really do a good job.

[So we build labs with] 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics, science equipment, sensors, all sorts of construction and science materials for kids to build projects, build inventions…

[A student] spent six months [in one of our labs] building [an invention of her own design.] Here, I don’t want to talk much about the technological skills that she acquired, but how this changed the way she looked at the world — not looking at technology as something magical, but looking at technology and science as a tool to improve the lives of others.

For more information on FabLabs and STEM education, watch Paulo’s entire talk below: