The Global Conference on Educational Robotics was held in Norman, Oklahoma in July. It is a week(ish) long competition ,and conference meant to promote robotics, coding and engineering to all ages. The Kiss Institute for Practical Robotics puts on the event every year. The competition portion,is a large board meant to simulate a natural disaster. The robots must try to score as many points in about 2 minutes as they can. They also get creative with the characters. The mayor of Bot City is a blue cube. Some teams went all i-inn this fact and had their team pins promote the reelection of Mayor blue block, or blocky for short.
The very first day of competition,was a practice day. This means that you had almost the whole day to make sure your robot worked. This day is very useful, because it gives you the opportunity to fine-tune and continue coding. This day also featured the first guest speaker: Sharlene Flesher. She works at Stanford University with the brain and robots. She plays with monkey’s at gets the monkeys brain to control a robotic arm. This research helped them create robotic arms for people with disabilities. She also spent a fair amount of time talking about women in the field of robotics. She encourages it and wants to ensure that the numbers grow.
The first real day of competition is the second day. It begins seeding. The objective of seeding is to score as many points as you can over 3 rounds. The better you do in seeding, the higher bracket you get in a future round of the competition. Once you finish seeding, double seeding begins. Double seeding is the same as normal seeding except you are competing against another team. These two rounds of competition are very crucial to your success.
Double seeding continues into the third day. It has a total of three rounds. The main thing to do that day is paper sessions. These give the kids and adults at the conference to help people with important information to help there robots succeed. They are all slideshows written by the people at the conference. One that I found particularly interesting was one about how to get a Create to line follow. By Create, I mean a Roomba Create that you can use as a vacuum. Line following is a form of code that will get your robot to follow a black-line, until it reaches its destination, the end of the black line. The presentation showed easier ways to program a Create to do this because it can be really difficult. It also showed some of the issues you might be running into in your program and how to fix it. The second guest speaker of the week was Andra Keay, a woman from New Zealand that now works in Silicon Valley. She spent most of the time talking about the robotics of the future. Technology 1.0, is the very basic ideas. Telegraphs and basic phones and the first Model T cars. She says that right now, we are in Technology 2.0. She describes Technology 3.0 as a time of truly smart robots. Robots that don’t need humans to operate, or just robots that are safe to be around humans. Technology 1.0 featured a lot of robots to dangerous to be around the general population. Technology 2.0 is slightly safer, but with technology 3.0, robots will be completely safe around all humans.
The next day is mechanical workshops. These workshops help you with the design process. They are lead by one person, and your table has to create a claw that matches their description. It is a really good team-building exercise, especially if you are at a table with people you don’t know. The final guest speaker, was Mateo Salvatto,CEO of Asteroid, a startup that uses technology to create a more inclusive world. He spoke about how robotics shaped his future in the best possible way. Robotics helped him be able to travel to other countries and compete in competitions. He also talked about his app: Hablano. It is an app that helps people with hearing disabilities communicate with everyone. The final event of the day was double elimination. Here your scores from seeding matter. The lower the score the lower the bracket. However, this can be good. You are competing against teams with similar scores. You have 2 chances to be eliminated. Once you have been eliminated, your time in the competition is done, but it is really fun to support other teams.
On the final day, double elimination continues. Once it’s done, the awards are given. The number of awards your team could receive are mind boggling. You can win awards for your documentation, seeding, double elimination, and even for being a team spirit. This gives every team the opportunity to win something awesome. Once everything is settled, the after party happened. They fill a room with blow up activities to play on for hours.
This robotics experience is one of the greatest ways to spend a week. You make new friends and you learn something along the way. If you love robotics, then this is the thing to do.