With support from the National Science Foundation, Linguist Jeff Heinz and mechanical engineer Bert Tanner are teaching robots about cooperative behavior, by observing how children learn to communicate and how adults learn new languages. One of the aims of the University of Delaware researchers is to help program robots as first responders in disaster situations. So, for example, a small helicopter robot which is carrying emergency supplies can’t fly through a closed door, but it can communicate with a ground robot capable of opening the door. The need for robots to be responsive to changing situations is critical in disasters. Since kids learn to do many things without overt instruction, the theory is that robots could learn the same way.