October 17th, 2014

Robots: Getting Girls Engaged in Robotics

Earlier this year, the Robots Podcast team came across a story about two 17 year old twin sisters who started their own robotics outreach group. The story about the Tipperman sisters got us curious. What kind of robotics outreach activities are out there to inspire children? Do any of these activities make a difference in getting more girls interested in robotics?

In this episode, AJung conducted a series of three interviews. She spoke to the Tipperman sisters to find out more about their activities, and with Ross Mead, a PhD student who has years of experience organizing robotics events and inspiring young minds. She then talks with Professor Elizabeth Croft, a roboticist who also studies the topic of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Hannah and Rachael Tipperman

DSC_0090Hannah and Rachael Tipperman are high school seniors. They became interested in robotics almost “accidentally” when Hannah participated in a one-time robotics workshop for middle school girls. Since then, they have participated in the FIRST Lego League, FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Robotics Challenge, and they founded and captain their school’s Vex Robotics Team. They developed Robot Springboard in the summer between 9th and 10th grade as a way of “paying it forward” and helping other children and communities learn more about, and become involved in, robotics. They run week-long programs in robotics and computing for communities as diverse as Homer, Alaska and Monteverde, Costa Rica. They have also run a week-long “Robot Springboard Technology Camp @ Drexel University” for middle school girls with the help and support of the National Center for Women and Information Technology and Drexel University.

This past year, they launched BrightStart Robotics, a program tailored to younger children (kindergarten through 3rd grade) and their parents. The BrightStart program has been remarkably successful and has hosted over 100 parents and 100 children in the past year. They are presently training other high school students to help run these programs. Hannah and Rachael Tipperman plan to pursue studies in Computer Science in college.

Ross Mead

r-meadRoss Mead is a Computer Science PhD student, former NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and former fellow of the USC Body Engineering Los Angeles program (part of the NSF GK-12 initiative). His research focuses on the principled design and modeling of fundamental social behaviors (such as social spacing, eye gaze, gesturing, turn-taking, and other nonverbal social cues) that serve as building blocks to facilitate natural face-to-face human-robot interactions. For over a decade, Ross has been involved with robotics outreach programs, such as Botball and FIRST, serving as an international program instructor, regional coordinator, competition designer, event host, technical mentor, and seasoned competitor. His Master Thesis was designed and implemented using hardware and software platforms used in these outreach programs, demonstrating the applicability of inexpensive and accessible technologies in real-world scenarios. Over the years, Ross has worked directly with thousands of K-12 and higher-education students, in an effort to improve the understanding of STEM principles and promote the pursuit of STEM studies and careers. Ross is the first to have formally introduced sociable robotics into the standard K-12 curriculum; this distinguishes itself from traditional robotics activities, which tend to focus on tasks that are “dirty, dangerous, and dull” for a human to perform. His goal is to use sociable robotics topics to increase interest and self-efficacy of K-12 students underrepresented in STEM, such as females, African-Americans, Latinos/Latinas, and Native Americans.

Elizabeth Croft

Elizabeth A. Croft

Elizabeth A. Croft is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Dean, Education and Professional Development for the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She holds the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, BC/Yukon at UBC and leads the Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WWEST) program.

Elizabeth founded WWEST in order to attract, recruit, and retain women in engineering and science careers. WWEST works at national, regional, and local levels with organizations engaged in increasing the number of women in science, engineering, and technology (SET) disciplines through multilateral partnerships spanning community, academic, and private sector partners. Elizabeth frequently gives talks and runs educational sessions to promote women in engineering from elementary school through graduate studies, academe and industry careers. She has received numerous awards for her activities promoting women in engineering.

She is also the director of the Collaborative Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Systems Laboratory at UBC. Her research investigates how robotic systems interact with people, and be perceived to behave, in a safe, predictable, and helpful manner.

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October 3rd, 2014

Robots: Quest for Computer Vision

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Peter Corke from Queensland University of Technology, about computer vision, the subject of his plenary talk at IROS 2014. He begins with a brief history of biological vision before discussing some early and more modern implementations of computer vision. Corke also talks about resources for those interested in learning computer vision, including his book, Robotic Vision & Control, and a massively open online course (MOOC) that he plans to release in 2015. 

 

Peter Corke
Peter CorkePeter Corke joined Queensland University of Technology at the start of 2010 as a Professor of Robotic Vision. Now he’s also director of the ARC funded Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision. Peter is known for his research in vision-based robot control, field robotics and wireless sensor networks. He received a B.Eng and M.Eng.Sc. degrees, both in Electrical Engineering, and a PhD in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, all from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

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September 21st, 2014

Robots: AirDog

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Edgars Rozentals, the CEO and Founder of Helico Aerospace Industries. They talk about Helico’s upcoming product ‘AirDog’, which is an autonomous quadrocopter designed to record video for action sports. Airdog uses an ‘AirLeash’ (worn on the users’ person) to track the users as they move and give the user simple control of AirDog. The AirLeash is waterproof and has big buttons—for gloves. For advanced control, there is a smart phone application that allows the user to control the flight-path, following angle and height, and mark obstacles.

AirDog has recently had a successful KickStarter campaign (raising 1.368M with a goal of 200K), and plans to make deliveries in December 2014.

Edgars Rozentals
edgars rozentalsEdgars Rozentals is the CEO and Founder of Helico Aerospace Industries. He is a self-described “visionary” and “adventurer,” who has founded numerous software and webservice ventures before founding Helico and creating AirDog. Edgars hopes that AirDog challenges people to be creative, and to push themselves and their skills to the next level.

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September 5th, 2014

Robots: M-Blocks

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews John Romanishin from MIT, about his modular robotics project ‘M-Blocks’. M-Blocks are small cubes (5 cm on a side) that have no external actuators, yet they manage to move and even jump. They do this by rotating an internal mass at high speeds then stopping that mass suddenly, which transfers inertia to the cube causing it to move. The rotating mass can change which plane it’s spinning in allowing the cube to move in any direction.  By combining this inertial actuator with permanent magnets, M-Blocks can move over similar robots (or more M-Blocks) and precisely line up. The future of this project is best put by John, who says, “We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand.” 

John Romanishin
john-romanishinJohn Romanishin is currently a graduate student studying mechanical engineering and researching self-reconfigurable modular robots at the Distributed Robotics Laboratory led by Daniela Rus at MIT.

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August 22nd, 2014

Robots: Birdly

In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Max Rheiner from Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) about his  project Birdly. Birdly explores the experience of a bird in flight with several methods. Unlike a common flight simulator, the user embodies a bird, the Red Kite. To evoke this embodiment, Birdly mainly relies on the sensory-motor coupling. The participant can control the simulator with their hands and arms, which directly correlates to the wings and the primary feathers of the bird. Those inputs are reflected in the flight model of the bird and displayed physically by the simulator through nick, roll and heave movements.

Visualized through a head-mounted display (Oculus Rift), the whole scenery is perceived in the first person perspective of a bird. To intensify the embodiment, Birdly has additional sound, olfactory and wind feedback. The participant hears the roaring of the wind and the flaps of the wings. The olfactory feedback is based on the changing scenery and ranges from the scent of a forest, or soil, to several other odors of the wilderness. According to the speed of the bird, the simulator regulates the headwind with a fan.

Max Rheiner
max-rheinerMax Rheiner is a senior lecturer at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) where he teaches bachelors and masters programs for the Department of Interaction Design. He also developed the Physical Computing Laboratory there. He received his Diploma from Zurich University of the Arts in the field of New Media Arts in 2003.

Rheiner’s research and artistic interests center on interactive experiences which utilize methods from Virtual/Augmented Reality and Immersive Telepresence. His artistic work has been recognized and exhibited in a number of international and well-renowned venues such as Biennale Venice, Italy, Ars Electronic Linz, Austria, and Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan.

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