By Aram Arkun
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — An Armenian robotics specialist was one of the speakers in a Lesley University panel discussion on April 21 called “Reading, Writing and Robotics: The Future of Education?” Lesley and the event organizer, the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA), presented the event, with the co-sponsorship of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.
Vahagn Poghosyan, the young and energetic cofounder and chief technology officer of Instigate Closed Joint Stock Company (CJSC) and Instigate Robotics CJSC, visiting from Yerevan, provided his perspectives on the role of robotics in Armenia. Poghosyan has a doctorate in computer science from Yerevan State University, and has founded multiple startup companies, such as ProximusDA, Amtokay, Instigate Mobile, and Instigate Robotics. The latter develops educational and industrial robots and provides solutions for industrial automation.
In addition to Poghosyan, there were four local speakers on the panel: Barbara Bratzel, a science teacher at the independent Shady Hill School of Cambridge; Ethan Danahy, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University and Engineering Research Program Director at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts; Michal Gordon, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who, with a doctorate in computer science from Tel Aviv University of Israel, is now working on visual and natural interfaces for programming social robots by young children; and Dan Monahan, a K-8 science instructional coach in Cambridge for the past nine years, who previously was a math and science teacher at the Cambridgeport School.
In Cambridge and surrounding areas, middle and high schools have competitions and programs in robotics, while area universities provide outreach programs, but robotics is not fully integrated into all educational levels. While there is no doubt that Cambridge appears fairly advanced for the United States, Armenia has made rapid strides in this field since 2000 (see Muriel Mirak-Weissbach, “Teachers, Businessmen, Robots and Youth United to Rebuild Armenian IT,” Mirror-Spectator, November 7, 2014). There are robotic clubs in public schools and competitions among 5th-12th grade students. Robotics kits and lab programs help students learn how to build robots and do computer programming.