A Champion Cheetah

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

A Champion Cheetah

June 6, 2015

When you jump over a toy, a rock or a baseball bat, your body knows what to do – you just jump. But it’s actually very complicated, as people found out when they tried to build a jumping robot. Your brain has to figure out how far away the rock is, how tall it is, how close you should get before jumping and how hard to push off. Well, guess what: this robot cheetah built at MIT can do it all! As you see in the video, this robotic cat bounces along and uses sensors to “see” the big blocks coming towards it. It then has to tilt its body, lift the front legs, push hard enough to get over, and land without falling right on its nose (if you can call it that). The moves are a little choppy, but the robot jumps over and over without tripping. When the engineers drive alongside it with a camera, you see the line the cheetah’s feet trace through the air, and suddenly it doesn’t look so easy. Next time you jump over a chair or a tricycle, give yourself a round of applause!

Wee ones: If the robotic cheetah has 2 front legs and 2 back ones – like a real cheetah – how many legs does it have?

Little kids: The robot jumps over a block that’s about 10 inches tall, then another block that’s 13 inches. How much taller is the 2nd block?  Bonus: If you can jump over a block 7 inches taller than that 2nd one, how high is your jump?

Big kids: If the robot cheetah tries to jump over blocks 1, 2, 3, 4 in that order and trips over 2 of them, how many different pairs of blocks could it trip over?  Bonus: If real cheetahs can run 70 miles per hour, but this robot can run only 1 mile per hour faster than 1/10th of that, how fast is the robot?




Wee ones: 4 legs.

Little kids: 3 inches taller.  Bonus: 20 inches.

Big kids: 6 pairs: 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 2-3, 2-4, and 3-4.  Bonus: 8 miles per hour.

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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