Masako Nunn | Animatronics and Japanese

Case Study in Brief

Course: JPNS-201: Second Year Modern Japanese (Fall 2021)

Instructor: Masako Nunn

Semester: Fall 2021

Number of Students: 7

Instructional Designer: Iyan Barrera-Sandri


This fall the Fletcher Jones Foundation Innovation Center was opened at the University of Redlands. This space included an upgraded Makerspace, created in association with Garner Holt Productions, containing 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC devices, a vacuum form, and two humanoid animatronics. Dr. Masako Nunn chose to augment one of the standard assignments in in her Japanese 201 class by utilizing the animatronics. In the standard project students, as groups, chose an aspect of Japanese culture and created a 10 -15-minute presentation in both English and Japanese.

                To incorporate the Animatronics the students were provided the opportunity to not only look into a Japanese cultural item, but also gain skills in programming, audio recording, and script making. In the project students first learned about the Animatronics becoming comfortable with how to utilize the programming software. The students then had to create their script, record their audio, and then bring the audio and animatronic programming together. Lastly the students had the animatronics preform the presentation to the class.


  • Showforge


Students utilizing Showforge to manipulate a SPARK-E. Video has no sound.


Target Skills

  • Engagement: Students engaged with new technology to present their learning. Providing a new and interesting way to connect with the assignment.
  • Oral Communications: Students worked to write, recorded, and present in another langue. This included editing and rerecording statements so that their communication understood and in the proper grammar.

Instructor’s Perspective

"Since it the very first experience for all students to program speech and movement in a robot, 2-3 students as a group presented Japanese culture: 1) Japanese folk story; 2) Japanese celebrations: 3) how a robot is used. They needed to write their own scripts in Japanese.  Then, they programmed their speech and movement in a robot.  This task was very challenging for all of them. However, after they all started to get used to programming and operating the robot, one of groups had a dialogue situation so they used two robots to interact with each other.

Even though they had a challenge staying in the time frame, they all gave positive feedback and they responded that they would like to do it again.“One of the best aspects of working on this project was being able to put what I learned into a presentation that was a lot more creative and spontaneous than what I was used to”.  All of them responded that this was unique, memorable, and fun.  "This is a different way to learn Japanese culture with a lot of fun.  If there is another opportunity, they would like to do this project again."

Recipe for Success

  1. Take a tour of the Makerspace
  2. Reflect on what assignments might be changed with the new tools.
  3. Consult with an Instructional Designer about implementation.
  4. Provide time for the students to work on the projects both inside and outside of class.