First Special Olympics Robotics Championship takes place in Seattle

Earlier this month, the first Unified Robotics Championship took place in Seattle, Washington. In the competition, students pit plastic against plastic in a sumo-style robot battle to push the competitor out of the ring.

For the event, students with intellectual disabilities were partnered up with kids from the rest of the student body. “The teams are basically 50/50, and the idea is not only to provide opportunities for the student with special needs but to break down barriers and help develop more of an inclusive mindset on everybody’s part,” said Mikel Thompson in a statement to GeekWire. Thompson is a computer science teacher and robotics coach at Kings High School. He also helped start the program.

The inspiration behind Unified Robotics began with sisters Delaney and Kendall Foster. Two years ago, the sisters were both seniors at Kings and Roosevelt High. Kendall was a big fan of King’s robotics team, but her family had a hard time finding a team she could participate in due to her autism. Delaney and Thompson decided to start a program last year with about 20 students, and this year it became an official sport within the Special Olympics Unified Sports program with 125 students from 12 different schools participating.

“We live in a day and age where digital fluency and competence in technology is a mandatory skill set,” said Thompson. “But all too often students with special needs are excluded from technology and engineering classes, or activities like robotics club.”

David Lenox, president and CEO of Special Olympics Washington, was originally worried that Unified Robotics would be tokenism instead of something substantial. He asked the robotics students what Special Olympics athletes bring to the team.

“And they said, oh my God, they think about the robot differently than we do,” Lenox said. “They ask questions that we didn’t think to ask because we think we know the answer already.”

The program is already growing in popularity. Schools as far as Texas and Oklahoma already have teams while other states and countries are showing interest. It looks like it won’t be too long before you can see a Unified Robotics Championship near you.

Smart Home

I have seen the future, and it’s full of salad-making robots

Think that robots bussing tables, tossing salads and baking bread is a futuristic concept? It's actually not as far away as you might think. Robots took center stage at a food robotics summit in San Francisco this week, where they showed…
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...

Amazon slashes prices on Ecovacs Deebot robot vacuums for one day only

Amazon cut prices of two Ecovacs Deebot robot vacuums for Deals of the Day. Robot vacuums have convinced millions of their value. I bought an Ecovacs Deebot as a family gift, and after a couple of weeks my wife said, "Best gift ever."
Emerging Tech

U.S. police are testing out Batman-style bola guns to catch criminals

U.S. police are taking a page out of Batman’s playbook with a new grappling hook gun, called the BolaWrap, which fires out a kevlar cord able to tie up assailants in the blink of an eye.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Emerging Tech

Meet the gene-edited bacteria that could make cannabis plants obsolete

Ever wanted to brew cannabis like you brew craft beer? At UC Berkeley, biologists have managed to engineer brewer’s yeast so that it produces the main cannabinoids found in marijuana.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Facebook data security, Ubisoft helps Notre Dame, and more

Join DT Live as we discuss Facebook security issues, Ubisoft's plan to help rebuild Notre Dame, and more. We are also joined by Emily Teteut of Snap the Gap, Jennifer Sendrow of New York Public Radio, and DJ and producer Zeke Thomas.
Emerging Tech

Planet-hunting satellite discovers its first Earth-sized planet

NASA's planet hunting satellite, TESS, has made a new discovery. Last month the satellite discovered its first exoplanet. And now it has achieved another milestone, locating its first Earth-sized planet and a larger sibling planet.
Emerging Tech

Resupply mission carries 7,600 pounds of scientific equipment to ISS

The Cygnus spacecraft has rendezvoused with the International Space Station as part of a months-long resupply mission. The craft will remain docked until July 23, while the crew take in the 7,600 pounds of research equipment it carried.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers surprised to find deep lakes of methane on Titan

In the two years since the Cassini probe burned up in Saturn's rings, data from its recordings is still being analyzed. The latest research has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, hosts deep liquid lakes of methane on its surface.
Emerging Tech

Happy birthday, Hubble! Telescope celebrates with image of Southern Crab Nebula

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit, where it has remained for nearly three decades collecting information about deep space. To celebrate its birthday, Hubble imaged the beautiful Southern Crab Nebula.
Emerging Tech

Star gives off superflare equal to 80 billion megatonnes of TNT. That’s a lot

A tiny star the size of Jupiter has been observed giving off a massive superflare 10 times more powerful than any flare from our Sun. The findings are raising questions about how much energy small stars can hold.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!