In this episode, we speak with Matthew Schroyer, founder of DroneJournalism.org, co-founder of Drones for Good, and developer of the “Drones for Schools” program which teaches students to design, fabricate and program unmanned aerial systems to monitor the environment.
Matthew Schroyer Matthew Schroyer has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he works on the National Science Foundation grant EnLiST, which offers entrepreneurial leadership training and professional development for K-12 STEM teachers. At EnLiST he uses drones to motivate students to pursue STEM careers.
Driven by the maker movement, safety concerns for journalists, and the promise of cutting edge information, Schroyer founded the Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ). His drones are used for the common good and a clear code of ethics was written to avoid privacy and safety concerns. Along the same lines, Schroyer cofounded Drones for Good, which aims to show the positive side of drone technology through public engagement and the advancement of positive drone projects.
In today’s episode we speak with Francesco Mondada, organizer of the Robotics Festival at EPFL that gathers over 15’000 visitors for hands-on workshops and demonstrations. We also walk you through the many exhibits showcasing multi-robot systems, flying robots, rehabilitation robots and robotic salamanders.
Francesco Mondada is the director of the Miniature Mobile Robots Group at EPFL in Switzerland. We spoke with him last fall about his work in Educational Robotics. An expert in education, he received the Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching last year. Some of his most popular robots used in schools and labs around the world include the Khepera, the S-bot and marXbot, the e-puck and more recently the Thymio and Thymio II. He also founded and was CEO of K-Team, a Swiss based company that develops, manufactures and markets mobile robots for use in advanced education and research. In this interview we catch his first impressions after the 5th edition of the Robotics Festival that took place at EPFL. A success from the very beginning, the Robotics Festival managed this year to draw 15’000 visitors in a single day of interactive workshops, demos, and robotic shows and featured demonstrations of Festo’s AirJelly.
The Robotics Festival aims to demystify engineering for the general public and especially kids. Of the 15’000 visitors, 1994 attended workshops where they learned to make robots, program and do electronics, while 6091 attended robotics shows. The rest walked around the many exhibits showcasing latest advances in robotics by research institutions and industry. In this episode, we take you to some of the demos:
In today’s show, we look at the playful field of educational robotics. We start by talking to Dr. Francesco Mondada, the leader of the MOBOTS group at EPFL, about his group’s efforts in this field. Focus is given to the Robotics Festival, an annual event he started back in 2008. We then talk with Stéphane Magnenat, a former member of the group and current member of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETHZ. Stéphane developed ASEBA, a straight-forward software package that allows beginners to program robots easily and efficiently. Finally, Fanny Riedo, PhD student in the MOBOTS group, presents the low-cost educational Thymio II robot.
In this episode, he tells us about the work that MOBOTS is doing in educational robotics and then presents the popular Robotics Festival, held every year at EPFL. A success from the very beginning, the Robotics Festival managed this year to draw 13’000 visitors in a single day of interactive workshops, demos, and robotic shows.
ASEBA is an event-based architecture for distributed control of mobile robots. It includes a user-friendly scripting language and a tightly integrated development environment which allows novices to rapidly start programming robot behaviors.
Fanny Riedo is doing her PhD on educational robotics with the MOBOTS group and presents the project she is currently focusing on: the Thymio II robot.
The Thymio II is an affordable children-oriented educational robot. It has a large amount of sensors and actuators, a specific interactivity based on light and touch, which is aimed at increasing the understanding of the robot functionalities, and can be programmed easily by using ASEBA.
In today’s episode we talk about a new generation of affordable robots with the Bilibot project and its leader Garratt Gallagher from MIT.
Garratt Gallagher joined MIT in 2009 as a research engineer after a Masters of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. During his day job, he works with the PR2 robots from Willow Garage. On the side however, Gallagher has been developing the Bilibot, a cheap hobbyist/research robot that merges the capabilities of ROS, iRobot’s iCreate, the Kinect and a robust manipulator. The end result is an excellent platform with state-of-the-art sensing technology that has the potential to achieve a variety of service tasks, such as picking up your room or fetching a beer from the fridge.
To bring the Bilibot project to the next level, Gallagher partnered-up with two master students in Operations Management at MIT. The company they recently founded is now selling Bilibots for 1200$ with a cash return of $350 if you make a video of the Bilibot doing something cool, you share the code on ROS and collaborate with other developers. With this step, his team hopes to build a user community excited about the robot and prepare for their next big step, a robot app store.
In today’s episode we meet with Natalie Freed, David Robert and Adam Setapen from Cynthia Breazeal’s Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab. They’ll be telling us about the Playtime Computing System, a playground where kids can interact with the physical world and its virtual extension.
The playground looks like a dream-like play-area with objects kids can interact with, including a robot that looks like an alphabet block and can be decorated with letters, shapes and even a mustache. The physical playground is surrounded by an engaging virtual world projected on a set of screens. Robot characters can seamlessly transition from the real world to the virtual world by entering a portal (which is basically a robot garage). Since anything is possible in the virtual world, robots can gain new capabilities, such as flying, and kids can rearrange the world or add their own virtual objects to the mix using a Creation Station. The children’s behavior is tracked using 3D motion capture as well as other sensors such as cameras and audio inputs.
The playground brings a whole new dimension to the idea of play, getting kids off the couch, engaging in creative activity that could bring them to a virtual cafe in France to learn french or allow them to build a whole new world to share with other kids around the world. In the interview, David, Adam and Natalie tell us what they learned from experiments with the Playtime Computing System, the fun anecdotes that come-up when working with kids, and the future of interactive media.
So when do we get one of these at home?
Natalie Freed finished her Masters in Computer Science at Arizona State University with a concentration in Arts, Media, and Engineering. She joined the MIT Media lab last summer as a graduate student and has since been interested in studying human-robot interactions with kids.
David Robert has a decade of expertise in the film industry working as a Technical Director and Animator. Over the years he’s consulted and worked with the world’s top animation studios including PIXAR, Dreamworks, LucasArts, ILM and Disney Imagineering. He also taught at The Academy of Art, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Pixar University and gave lectures around the world. He’s currently doing a PhD at the Personal Robots group as a first step in showing that the “future of animation is off the screen”.
Adam Setapen has a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin and a strong background in AI. He joined the Personal Robots Group as a graduate student with the hope of developing robots for children that support long term interaction.