The cubic box puzzle serves two purposes; the first is as an English Communications Skills Learning Platform for Students and the second concerns autonomous mobile robots and artificial intelligence. It is a research project originated by Dr. Mani Levasan who is an Applied Linguist in the Language Centre of the University of Brunei Darussalam. Frank is a research collaborator and, together with science students, has created the hardware.
There are 27 lightweight plastic boxes with lifting knobs at each corner; each one a 1ft cube (0.3m cube). One of the boxes is an “ace” gold coloured cube. The remaining 26 boxes have six different colour faces; each with the same colour orientation. One of these 26 boxes has incorrect colour orientation so is the hidden “joker” of the pack. At present there is just one robot that can manipulate and lift the boxes and the robot is radio controlled by a human.
The research project is to task students with adding intelligence to the robot so that it can act autonomously in stacking or unstacking the boxes in a given orientation and arrangement. Later more robots will be built so they will act as simultaneously acting collaborative multi agents. The robot is a prototype so it is in need of improvement; you can see that it requires improvement in its positioning and manipulation control and placement accuracy skills.
Dr. Levasan’s idea is to use the hardware as a Student Learning Platform to teach students the science of Communication using the English Language as a communication medium; it means students communicating via English language to achieve an aim. English Communication is an important research area; for example, aircraft pilots and air traffic controllers of all nationalities must communicate instructions and information in English in a clear, concise and unambiguous manner.
Dr. Levasan will use the coloured cubes and the robots as a platform where information must be given and instructions must be carried out, similarly, in a clear, concise and unambiguous manner. For example, “look at one of the coloured boxes, scattered on the floor, on the left, next to the window, the one with a blue face pointed upwards, next to the one with the yellow face pointed upwards; now drive the robot to tip the blue face cube such that the yellow face is pointed upwards….” you get the idea? Are those instructions clear, concise and unambiguous?…discuss. There are a lot of coloured cubes and a lot of potential confusion and if lives depend on assembling the cubes into a given shape exactly, you can see the importance of English Communication