Luke’s Robot Show-and-Tell

Our RoboSlam facilitators team has been growing this semester as we have been recruiting and training people to conduct their own RoboSlam robot-building workshops.

As it turns out, we also have also recruited a RoboSlam ambassador! Ten-year-old Luke Buckley, who I first met at ResearchNightDublin, attended a workshop on how to assemble robot circuitry that we held during Science Week. He rebuilt his robot on his very own, at home, and then brought his robot to school to show his classmates. He demonstrated how it worked and how to put it together.

The RoboSlam should get Luke into a programming workshop very soon (and then, who knows, maybe a facilitator training session, too). With enthusiasm like his, the sky’s the limit!

Here’s a note his mom sent to let us know about his experience. We love to receive followup stories from our participants–if you have any more, please email them on! We’re just a click away.

Dear Shannon,

I just wanted to say a big thank you for the RoboSlam workshop that my son, Luke attended. He asked me to say thank you from him too.

Just to give you some feedback on the outcome of your RoboSlam outreach activity, I thought that you might be interested to hear that Luke was able to disassemble and rebuild the robot on his own afterwards without any difficulty.  He also brought it into school (Glasnevin Educate Together National School) where he gave a demonstration to his class (31 pupils aged 10-11). Apparently the robot behaved perfectly during the demo and generated plenty of interest!

Many thanks again,

Niamh

Luke's robot

Luke O’Dowd at home, perfecting his robot design and testing it with an arena he built for himself. This robot is programmed to detect the change in color from black to white and to follow the line.

Making Videos, Making Fairs

Producing robot-building events requires warp-speed learning.  In just the past few days, helping with a Dublin Maker event, I learned:

  • to quickly make and post educational videos
  • to setup and run a RoboSlam educational booth
  • how to teach teenty-tiny tots to build robots
  • what “Makers” are, what they do, and how they talk (it’s a whole new language to me!)
  • about 3-D printing and how to build (and even invent) your own machines using laser cutters and 3-D printers

I’ve posted links to two videos I made as well as some photos from last Saturday’s Dublin Maker event.

Here’s the edited video we posted to introduce RoboSlam.com to website visitors.  I am really quite proud of it!

Here’s the short promo video we posted earlier last week to advertise the fair:

I wish I could convey the excitement of seeing little four and six year old girls build their first robots… and tiny little boys jump up and down with glee as they discover the difference between remote-controlled and autonomous robots!

Although I captured some behind-the-scenes images of set up and take down with my still cameras (posted below) they don’t come anywhere close to showing what it was like to be there.  Fortunately, I was able to capture some video of the kids building and operating robots so we can learn from it and create even better programs in the future!

 

Sinead’s Slammin’ TV Production

RTE's Sinead Morris filming DIT's Ted Burke using a kitted-out iPhone 5.

RTE’s Sinead Morris filming DIT’s Ted Burke using a kitted-out iPhone 5.

TV journalist Sinead Morris came to DIT’s Kevin Street location today to film robot construction in action. Our RoboSlam team leaders — Ted, Damon, Frank, and I — are preparing for the upcoming Dublin Maker event, to be held at Trinity College on Saturday, July 26.  Sinead wanted to capture the activity.

The Dublin Maker event served as the impetus, Sinead explained, but the main intention of her piece is to show what the RoboSlam group is doing with robotics.

Sinead’s production is likely to air on RTE’s digital news channel, News Now.

Ted and Sinead set up for a shot of the robot underworld.

Ted and Sinead set up for a shot of the robot underworld.

Sinead is testing photojournalism innovations. The Irish television company where she works, RTE, wants its journalists to gain experience with spontaneous, low-tech approaches — so staff members can shoot, edit, and post “on the go.”  At the end of this innovation project, RTE staff will have the skills needed to disseminate news on the run… when opportunities arise.

RTE asked its staff to take this challenge: produce interesting and informative pieces wholly on their iPhones.

Hampton University journalism students were learning to do the same when my friend Tony Brown was dean of the program so, for me, watching this process firsthand proved fascinating.  The move toward spontaneous creation of new content aligns with the goals for our RoboSlam project; we want our workshop participants to take their robots home and start creating new “home grown” code for operating the ‘bots.

TV news technology has come a long way in my lifetime. When I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s, my parents were television journalists. They used 16mm film equipment, and I learned to use the same when I was in college studying architecture.

Today’s capture-edit-and-post culture speeds the process. Mom and Dad used to shoot the footage and put it on a Trailways bus bound for the TV station one hour away. While it was in transit, they’d phone the station to make a voice recording of the text for the station to overlay.

It would appear in its synchronized form on that night’s news.

Now, Viola!, Sinead can do, alone and in moments, what it took dozens of people hours to create in the 1980s.

Robot show down.

Robot show down.

So, I was able to learn quite a bit from Sinead today, about software as well as hardware, and perhaps now I can give her videography techniques a go.

She also inspired me to write up this blog on site, while she’s finishing up her interview with Ted. Moments ago, she asked him what it’s like to work this type of job. He said he loves coming in every day to build robots and work with students.

He didn’t mention that he and his colleagues are currently on vacation and aren’t at all required to be here.  They just can’t keep themselves away!

We actually had quite a few interesting projects underway in the lab today while we were filming… a veritable Santa’s workshop of robotics. For instance, one of DIT’s third year students, Shane Ormonde, was here developing a new robot to show at the Dublin Maker event. He just completed a degree in Electrical and Control Engineering (DT009) and will pursue yet another degree in the fall.

Shane is conducting a robotics experiment while on summer holiday.  It’s a nice break, he says, from his call-center job.  (Gotta love that initiative!)

Shane Ormonde's new global robot arm.

Shane Ormonde’s new global robot arm.

Shane is building and programming a robotic system that, using a globe, can show in real time what the International Space Station is actually tracking at the same moment. Eventually, his robot will also be able to point to any location a person requests, using the laser on the end of its moving arm.

The globe itself moves to set the correct longitude and the arm moves to pinpoint the latitude.

He originally wanted people to be able to tune in via internet to ask the robot to identify specific locations and complete other such actions.  Shane’s creation will be featured as one part of our DIT RoboSlam exhibit at the Dublin Maker event.

Come join us next Saturday – near the cricket pitch at Trinity – and see!

Making Press

Last week, a PR person from DIT asked to use a photo I took at graduation for publicity.  Through our communication, I learned she’d used another of my images–one from RoboSlam–in a press release back in May.

 

DIT Dublin Institute of Technology - TY-students-learn-about-eng

New “RoboSlam for Facilitators” Workshop

Ted, Damon, and I have been gearing up for future RoboSlam workshops.   We have been looking for sponsors to help us continue and scale up our work.  For now, we’ll have to keep things fairly small and simple.  We’re not letting the lack of funds hold us back too much!  We’ve got to keep our momentum going!

During my Fulbright fellowship, I had several official projects. Along the way, I adopted a number of other projects–like RoboSlam–where I could learn and also contribute.

Ted and Damon are so talented and passionate about what they do that it’s impossible not to want to contribute to the success of their project.

While I was away studying in Rome, Ted and Damon hosted a workshop for people we hope will want to become facilitators of RoboSlam.  It’s part of our strategy for getting more people involved in the project.

RoboSlam Wrap Up

We ended the “Engineering Your Future” week, sponsored by DIT and Engineers Ireland, with robot competitions (video footage to come) and awards. On the RoboSlam blog, you can see the full contingent of robots we created. Students earned awards for their essays, test performance, robot design, and the like.

Preparing to Slam Again

RoboSlam planning session with Ted and Damon.

RoboSlam planning session with Ted and Damon.

Ted, Damon, and I have been meeting over the past couple of days to evaluate past events, brainstorm strategies, and plan for upcoming workshops.  We enjoy remembering recent Slams….

Finalizing and Testing

Things really got fun once all the circuitry, programing, structural components, and body casings all synched and we stared testing out our nearly-fully-functioning robots and working out the final kinks.  Success!

See more photos about finalizing and testing on the RoboSlam website.

RoboSlam finalizing robots 70

RoboSlam Ratings

The organizer of last week’s events at DIT wrote to those of us who conducted the RoboSlam robot hacking workshop. She said:

In fact, in the survey I conducted at the end, 61.8% of 34 participants said it was ‘excellent’ and 35.3% said it was ‘very good’. One student said it was ‘good’ (2.9%) and that was the lowest score Roboslam got. It even beat Wednesday’s visit to the Aviva Stadium which, in the week of the Heineken Cup, is saying something! A whopping 67.6% of participants said it was their favourite on-campus activity and, interestingly,  11 students now say that electronic engineering would be their preferred choice of engineering discipline, up from 8 students at the start of the week…

To read more, please see the RoboSlam blog on this topic.

Robot Design and Rapid Prototyping

Product design, rapid prototyping, statistical analysis, and body construction: our second day of RoboSlam covered all sorts of topics!

We got an overview of product design from DIT lecturers Ger Reilly and Kevin Delaney and designed bodies for our robots. Then, we divided into groups so that we’d all get to tour the rapid prototyping lab, learn about statistical analysis, and start crafting our robot bodies from rigid foam using the hot wire cutter.

Please visit our RoboSlam blog to see the range of things we accomplished this day….