Playing With Robots Is Serious Business

MHS students talk with USC Interaction Lab student Jessica Lupanow about iPal, the child-like robot. Photos by Maja Matarić

The friendly robots were back at Monterey Hills Elementary School on Thursday, Nov. 14, for the popular Robotics Family Night hosted by Prof. Maja Matarić, mother of three MHS students and professor of computer science, neuroscience and pediatrics at USC.

Matarić has been hosting robotics events at MHS for 15 years, with the goal of sharing the excitement and promise of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and caregiving robots.

MHS students got to meet and play with Mabu, a bright yellow table-top robot that helps elderly users to stay active.

Also on hand was Kuri, a pudgy penguin-like robot that helps children learn math and programming; Sphero, a glowing ball robot that motivates babies to learn movement skills; and iPal, a child-like robot that helps children with autism learn perspective taking and empathy.

The visiting families were provided with handouts about educational robotics resources. For more information about the robots, visit