Dublin Maker here we come!

The TU Dublin RoboSlam gang is alive and kicking!

Nearly 20 of us met in February to start planning our exhibition for Dublin Maker 2020. The big event is to be held on the 27th of June in Herbert Park, on the south-side of Dublin.

Last week, a portion of our team reassembled to get different people’s parts working together in a coordinated way. I’ve created a little video of that second prep session for you to enjoy.

One thing that worries me, though, is that all the stuff my colleagues have made looks so very cool, so incredibly professional, that visitors to our Dublin Maker booth will think they BOUGHT this ready-made. Not so.

For instance, Keith Colton (in the video with the bandaid on his thumb) used a 3D printer to make the car he’s holding. He made it from scratch.

Shane Ormond combined a whole bunch of cutting-edge technologies to get a tiny camera on top of his race car to feed video into the VR headsets and TV monitors, all the while controlling the car’s behavior from a hand-held device. He’s been sending us video updates from his house and it’s been cool to watch his car speed under sofas and chairs and around his lovely home.

When I tired driving, I couldn’t control the car too well–and I’m pretty used to driving sporty cars! In this case, the car didn’t quite have the handling of my 2004 Nissan Z350. The car was racing around at top speed and the VR googles made it all seem much too real!

Note in he video how Paul Leamy’s stomach turned when his car flipped over. Seemed real! You can see on the TV monitor, but viewed through VR goggles it’s all the more gripping.

So, see for yourself!

Come on out on June 27th to see where all this leads. Our team is just at the start and we plan to build a plethora of buses, stop lights, trams, and Dublin city sites for our cars to whizz though on Dublin Maker day 2020.

Starting with Circuitry


RoboSlam starts with an introduction to the overall robot-building process and then delves into assembling the electronic components (i.e., building the circuitry).  The photos below track the progress of several groups of participants in the “Engineering Your Future” event held the week of May 13-17 at DIT.

These photos were all taken by DIT’s current Fulbright Scholar in Engineering Education, Dr. Shannon Chance.  Participants are welcome to download them and share them with others.  Shannon will post images of the rest of the week in the days to come….

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Ready to Oink at the RoboSlam

Dave Dorran working with students at the mid-semester trials for RoboSumo, March 2012. (Photo by Shannon Chance.)

Dave Dorran working with students at the mid-semester trials for RoboSumo, March 2012. (Photo by Shannon Chance.)

Regarding my prior RoboSumo blog, Ted did read it and he wrote back:

Hi Shannon,

Thanks for writing about RoboSumo on your blog – that was a very pleasant surprise!!

As you anticipated, I do have an updated list of people currently tutoring on RoboSumo:

  • David Dorran
  • Richard Hayes
  • Ted Burke
  • John McGrory

Although Damon Berry isn’t currently tutoring on the module, he remains closely involved in the broader DIT RoboSumo enterprise. For example, he and I travelled to Galway with the DIT student team on Saturday 19th January to take part in the National Intervarsity RoboSumo competition. And of course, Damon and I are still developing our “RoboSlam” begginers’ workshop for promoting engineering/programming/robotics, which we will hopefully be running again soon within DIT with an assorted cohort of guinea pigs (engineers, teachers, non-engineers, regular people, etc). Expect a call.


Dr. Ted Burke
School of Electrical Engineering Systems
Dublin Institute of Technology
Kevin St.
Dublin 8

Richard Hayes leading the 2012 RoboSumo trials. (Photo by Shannon Chance, March 2012.)

Richard Hayes leading the 2012 RoboSumo trials. (Photo by Shannon Chance, March 2012.)


To which I replied:
Oink, oink!  I’m ready!
I’ll update the blog shortly….

But alas, Ted is always a stickler for details. I think he must be a brilliant engineer because he’s creative as well. Anyway, Ted said:
…On a minor point of information, I have it on good authority that guinea pigs chut, chubble, wheeeek and rumble but they don’t oink. Evidently, before we can meaningfully assess the strengths and weaknesses of our workshop, we’ll have to familiarise all our subjects with the basic vocabulary they’ll be using!  Ted
Oh.  But, architects oink!
Did you think I was a pig????

Damon Berry advising a student at RoboSumo. (Photo by Shannon Chance, March 2012.)

Damon Berry advising a student at RoboSumo. (Photo by Shannon Chance, March 2012.)


LOLzers. Of course – how silly of me!

RoboSumo at DIT

RoboSumo video is available to view at by clicking here.

A video of a past RoboSumo competition is available to view at by clicking here. The competition is just getting underway now for this year… in fact, there’s still time to register for the DIT class!

One of the things I have been studying here in Dublin is the use of hands-on projects to teach engineering. One example is a very popular electrical engineering course at DIT called RoboSumo.

People who teach this course include Ted Burke, David Dorran, and Damon Berry. Richard Hayes tends to show up at RoboSumo events, too, as do many of the other lecturers. (Ted’s probably going to read this and he’ll likely send me and update of who’s teaching “on the module” this semester so I can tweak my list — I know mine isn’t complete. By the way, I appreciate having you in my audience, Ted!)

Suffice it to say, the whole program gets jazzed up about RoboSumo events. Even the Dean (Dr. Mike Murphy) can be seen in the video of the final competition.

There’s a bit of information about the class on line. The General Rules page explains:

Two robots compete in each bout, each trying to stay in the arena longer than the other robot. Robots are encouraged but not obliged to actively push their opponent out of the arena. … The bout ends either when a robot leaves the arena or once 1 minute has elapsed, whichever occurs first. If only one robot remains in the arena at the end of the bout, that robot is the winner.

Rites of Passage

A reflection I passed on the way to the retirement event.

Rituals help an organization determine and reinforce its collective values.  The stories that are told convey what’s most important. They help pass core ideas from one generation to the next.

The things that are said and the places where these rituals are held are embedded with symbols that suggest what is central and important to the community.

The DIT has few rituals as an institution– the Institute is a collection of long-standing colleges that came together not so very long ago (1992, to be exact). It hasn’t had much time for such rituals to develop institute-wide.

The schools and departments within the DIT, however, maintain a number of very important rituals that help reinforce what these units stand for and communicate what the people in them cherish.

Speeches in Kevin Street’s penthouse “canteen.”

I got to attend one such ritual Friday evening. It was the retirement celebration for three Lecturers from the Electrical Engineering program. For each retiree, a colleague reminisced, sharing thoughts and telling stories. Each retiree spoke as well.

As an outsider, this was a very interesting event to behold. I learned much more about the community here.

After the formal reception and the speeches, most of us headed to a nearby pub.  The photos show faculty deep in discussion and others hamming it up.

It’s important for an organization to take time to reflect in this way–to celebrate what it considers to be accomplishments and to recognize contributions of its members.

Dave’s retirement speech thanked the family who donated a heart to him. His transplant was so successful that he could ham it up with “Father” Ted after the formal events.

Kevin Street colleagues deep in discussion.