Will horse-riding robot land in Guinness Book of World Records?

Published: Mar. 30, 2018 at 5:15 PM EDT
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There’s a first time for everything, and this time a couple of seventh graders from Edgewood Middle School lead the charge into uncharted territory.

Their one-of-a-kind accomplishment may land them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

It involves a 26-inch Nao humanoid robot named Rowdy.

Rowdy is preprogrammed to kick a soccer ball, to practice the ancient art of Tai Chi, and to get back up by himself if he falls down.

When he teamed up with a couple of seventh grade programming whiz kids from Edgewood Middle School in Warsaw, Rowdy learned to do something, presumably, no other humanoid robot has.

“We are the only ones that successfully had a robot ride a real horse, not a robotic horse, but a real horse,” said Edgewood teacher Abbi Richcreek.

Richcreek has home video of a real practice session with a real horse that took place earlier this week.

It shows Rowdy in the saddle clutching the reigns of a brown and white pony.

“I walk the horse down with his reigns and then we unattach the horse from us, and rowdy lifts his arms and he pulls it off to the right and does a right turn, and then he does a circle around the arena, and then he pulls back (on the reigns) to stop him,” said student programmer Milana Whitaker. “We use a program and choreograph called The Time Line where it’s like a flip book. You make little pictures, and then once you flip it, it makes the program run and do as he's told.”

Student programmer Owen Stevens also had a hand in the programming, although he says he hasn’t been on a horse since he was six. “I didn't know if he (Rowdy) was going to make the full turn or he just wasn't going to do it at all. He did it. Executed it perfectly.”

The challenge provided an out-of-classroom crash course in troubleshooting, problem solving, engineering and collaboration,

You could say Rowdy’s first rodeo was a dandy.

“Well he does show emotion through his LED lights which are in his eyes, and they didn't go red so I'm assuming he liked it,” said Abbi Richcreek. “Red is anger or frustration.”

As for the human participants, pride ran rampant.

“This is the first in the world, so no one really knows

how anyone would do it, and so we figured it out. That's pretty awesome,” said Milana Whitaker.

“It’s never been done before, so it’s going to be pretty exciting if we do make it into that book (Guinness), because then it will spiral all the way out from there,” added Stevens.

Rowdy will be performing Friday and Saturday nights at the Michiana Event Center in Shipshewana, as part of the Wild Wild West Equestrian Variety Show.