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A Vocational school in Tampere, Finland, has got a robot teacher. Pepper is a social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and basic human emotions. The robot is optimized for human interaction, and the robot can engage with people through conversation and touch screen.

The Covid-19 made changes and created opportunities. The use of the robot in the classrooms has increased in elementary schools, 2nd elementary education, vocational education, and universities in Finland. All those institutions were closed for periods due to the Covid-19. Vocational colleges in Finland have started using robots in the lessons. In addition, they use Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is also an important part of teachers work both now and for the future. The robot for vocational education is called Pepper. In Tampere elementary schools, robots have been used to help the pupils learning languages and mathematics. In elementary schools, they use a different robot. That is manufactured by the company called Softbankrobotics.

Pepper Robots in TVET in Finland

The reasons they use Pepper robot in vocational education are among others: the students must be ready and familiar with robots since the robots will become relevant for their future work. The use of robots may also reduce the resistance to robotics. The idea is to use robots for language training (train on the right pronunciation and writing), train as a guide in the restaurant, help in the library and school, or showing different slideshows on its screen. The students can use the Internet to get answers they should come up with according to the robot.

Pepper-robot (Photo: Ari Rannisto)

Pepper robots are programmable. The most common program language for the robots is Python. However, the box-based programming paradigm allows everyone to program on Pepper, regardless of their coding skills. You’ll need the program Choreograph for that programming, and you can test your programs without the robot since that program includes the virtual robot simulator and physical robot viewer. More advanced coding is also possible by editing the Python code of each box, creating new code boxes, and direct access to the robot’s memory. Also, the documentation of the robot and the programming language is very comprehensive:

Tampere Vocational Education Tredu (TVET) uses Pepper robot version NAOqi 2.5 instead of version Pepper QiSDK. The reason we use NAOqi 2.5 the teacher tells:

”NAOqi 2.5 is usually the best fit for advanced robotics programs and Python-based development. At the same time, NAOqi 2.9 is better suited for interaction-based use cases or applied science courses and uses Java for programming. To put it simply, NAOQi 2.5 is a good choice for programming schools or IT universities, while NAOQi 2.9 would be better for social sciences universities or business schools.”

Pepper Robot Play Saxophone

The figure shows an example of coding the saxophone play in Choreograph. To get this work with some keyword, a script needs to be written to script editor.

Illustration: Ari Rannisto

You talk with the robot:

  • You: Can you play the saxophone?
  • Robot: Sure I can! $saxophone =1,

To explain: “You” means what the user says to Pepper, and after that, Pepper’s answer (“sure I can”). Thereafter you get the code for saxophone play.


Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Its capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. The population is 5.518 million (2019) 

Lucubrate Magazine May 2021

Photo on the top of the article: Ari Rannisto

Tampere, Finland (Photo: Adobe Stock)

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Ari Rannisto Terveisin
Ari Rannisto Terveisin

Ari is a teacher in vocational education, and I teach mathematics, programming etc. He has been working in the field of education since 1998. He is a teacher at Tampere Region Vocational College Tredu and Tampere Business School.

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