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Meet ADA, USM Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering's New Robot

Tue, 05/24/2022 - 09:42am | By: Ivonne Kawas

Enoc Lopez with Ada the robot

Enoc Lopez with Ada the robot

Undergraduate students in The University of Southern Mississippi's (USM) School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering participated in contest to name USM's new NAO humanoid robot. Enoc Lopez, a native of Southaven, Miss. and Computer Science major at USM, submitted the winning name of “Ada.”

The interactive robot that is famous around the world was designed and manufactured by SoftBank Robotics, and its website describes it as a “tremendous programming tool that has especially become a standard in education and research.” Also stating that it is primarily used as “an assistant by companies and healthcare centers to welcome, inform and entertain visitors."

Dr. Sarah Lee, director of the School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering, highlights that this robot will enhance initiatives in the school that aim to engage youth in active learning activities, as it offers an engaging and interactive classroom dynamic while introducing students to computing.

“The robot is an engaging tool for introducing K-12 learners to computing, and it also provides a platform for teaching higher order computer science concepts and skills such as natural language processing methods,” Lee said. “The robot is a great way to introduce programming, enabling students to develop computational thinking skills while programming the robot to dance, walk, and talk. There are also cross-disciplinary applications such as getting the robot to tell a story or walk in a geometric formation.”

Enoc Lopez, who submitted the winning name said his selection was inspired on an incredible figure in the history of computer science — Ada Lovelace — as a way to honor her contributions to the field.

“I chose the name because my first thought was that a great name for the robot would be one of historical significance, especially one tied to computing,” said Lopez. “I looked up famous figures in computing and I got the usual including Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, and others. After a few searches, I ended up finding Ada Lovelace and was absolutely enthralled by her history and baffled that she wasn't, at least to my knowledge, mentioned nearly as much as many other historical figures in computer science.”

A pioneer, visionary, computer scientist, and mathematician are just a few words that would describe Lovelace, one of the most important women in science history also known as the world’s first computer programmer. She wrote the first machine algorithm for an early computing machine called the Analytical Engine.

Lopez continues to share more about her legacy, as he would love for others who are not familiar with her contributions to know more about her.

Samuel Hill with the robot

Samuel Hill with Ada the robot

“She was a mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on the development of the Analytical Engine also known as the first computer,” he said. “An interesting fact is that she even predicted that computers would one day be able to compose complex music over 100 years before the first working computer, and we now have artificial intelligence that can do exactly that! She was very notable, there's even an early programming language named after her.”

Samuel Hill, a native of Laurel, Miss. pursuing a BS in Information Technology, is currently putting his skills to the test by programming Ada and setting up its different capabilities.

Learn more about the School of Computing Sciences and Computer Engineering.