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Elektro the Moto-Man Had the Biggest Brain at the 1939 World’s Fair

December 21st, 2018 No comments

From IEEE Spectrum
By Allison Marsh
28 Sep 2018 | 19:00 GMT

This voice-controlled robot could walk, talk, and smoke, and it captivated crowds

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be very glad to tell my story. I am a smart fellow as I have a very fine brain of 48 electrical relays.” This is how Elektro the robot introduced itself to crowds at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Standing 2.1 meters tall and weighing 118 kilograms, Elektro performed 26 different tricks, including walking, talking, counting, and singing. It had a vocabulary of approximately 700 words, although its responses were all prerecorded and played back from 33⅓-rpm records. One of Elektro’s pet lines was, “My brain is bigger than yours.” At 25 kg, it certainly was.

Read more…

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Robotics, the sport of STEM education

December 20th, 2018 No comments

From: The Daily Memphian
By Michelle Corbet
Updated: December 19, 2018 4:00 AM CT

A new sport is emerging in local middle schools — robot battles.

St. Mary’s Episcopal School, a private all-girls pre-K through high school, held its first VEX IQ Challenge Tournament at its East Memphis campus last weekend.

The event sold out within 30 minutes.

If an indication is needed to show how popular robotics competitions have become among kids, that’s it.

“I told the girls that robotics is a new sport,” said Meagan Michael, a lower school science teacher at St. Mary’s.

Participants came from Piperton, Medina, Collierville and Memphis. The 32 competing teams were made up of co-ed elementary and middle school students ranging from 3rd to 8th grade.

“It’s this generation of students,” Michael said. “They are interested in STEM and robotics.”

A lot of schools, including St. Mary’s, also are pushing robotics because it involves problem solving.

“When building robots, it requires a lot of skills students might not learn in the classroom,” Michael said.

Parents are recognizing the benefit of robotics competitions as a way to prepare their child for jobs of the future.

“Parents realize their girls are learning how to think,” said Hilary Robinson, head of St. Mary’s Lower School. “We say this a lot around here; we’re preparing these girls for jobs that don’t even exist yet. If they can learn to problem solve and think, then they can ultimately do anything.”

Competitions are not solely about building robots, they also involve design, writing and public speaking.

St. Mary’s has been working to host a VEX Robotics competition since Michael joined the school as a new teacher last year.

“She was already involved with the VEX program and brought that to St. Mary’s,” said Laura Leathers, St. Mary’s assistant head of school. “We’ve been in conversation about growing the program and hosting a competition here.”

St. Mary’s is part of Girl Powered, Redefining the Face of STEM, a global initiative to increase girls’ access to and confidence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Launched in 2016 by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation and VEX Robotics, Girl Powered is striving for 50 percent of robotics competitors to be girls.

The ultimate goal is shattering the status quo.

Currently, girls make up about 23 percent of VEX Robotics participants and women represent 24 percent of the STEM workforce, according to Girl Powered.

“Our main goal is to open (robotics) up to the greater Memphis area,” Leathers said. “All these different VEX teams can come together, learn, compete and meet each other in this common space.”

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Boston Dynamics can now moonwalk to ‘Uptown Funk’

October 18th, 2018 No comments

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ROBOTS: Your Guide to the World of Robotics

September 3rd, 2018 No comments
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DARPA Wants Your Insect-Scale Robots for a Micro-Olympics – IEEE Spectrum

July 18th, 2018 No comments
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Barbie’s latest career path is robotics engineering

June 26th, 2018 No comments

From: https://www.engadget.com/2018/06/26/mattel-barbie-robotics-engineer/

Earlier this year, Mattel announced that it was partnering with Tynker to bring Barbie-themed coding lessons to young kids. As of today, six free coding experiences are now available as is a new STEM-themed doll — Robotics Engineer Barbie. The lessons are geared towards beginners, kindergarten-aged and older, and aim to teach logic, problem-solving and the basics of coding. While they learn, kids can also take on different career roles alongside Barbie, including musician, astronaut, pastry chef, robotics engineer, farmer and beekeeper.

“Our mission is to empower youth to become the makers of tomorrow through coding, and the Barbie brand is an ideal partner to help us introduce programming to a large number of kids in a fun, engaging way,” Tynker CEO Krishna Vedati said in a statement. “It’s critical that all young learners have an opportunity to explore the possibilities available in STEM fields, and Tynker’s Barbie programming experience is a valuable tool to introduce kids of all ages to these concepts while building their coding skills.”

Throughout the year, Mattel will also support the robotic workshops put on by Black Girls Code, debut more Tynker coding lessons and publish a coding e-book for kids.

Robotics Engineer Barbie is available today in four skin tones. You can learn more about Mattel’s coding partnership with Tynker here.

Article: A Burger Joint Where Robots Make Your Food

June 22nd, 2018 No comments

A Burger Joint Where Robots Make Your Food

http://flip.it/7zrgfe

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Article: A Security Robot Found Beaten Up and Covered in BBQ Sauce Had it Coming

May 5th, 2018 No comments

From: Nerdist

Under normal circumstances we would never encourage or endorse slathering someone in BBQ sauce, beating them up, and leaving them lying on the side of the road, and that goes for both humans and robots. But we’re not exactly short-circuiting with anger over this one mechanical security guard who had that exact thing happen to it, because it’s tasked with harassing homeless people.

In a story we first came across at New York Magazine, a Knightscope security bot used by a non-profit organization in San Francisco in part to discourage homeless people from congregating, was found lying on its side wrapped up in a tarp and marinating in some barbecue sauce. (No word on what flavor or brand.) The five-foot tall, 300-pound machine that fittingly looks like it was inspired by Doctor Who‘s Daleks, is designed to alert the local authorities of any untoward behavior, but apparently it wasn’t able to get help for itself in time.

We doubt there will be any great outcry or anguish for this bullied Knightscope from the community, though, because while these robots have been used for other, less upsetting reasons, they haven’t been very popular with residents or the local government.

If you were looking for a great backstory for your dystopian novel, robot security guards that scare your dog and harass the homeless while roaming one of the richest cities in the world is a pretty fantastic foundation. Whether you keep the BBQ sauce or go with another condiment is up to you.

Would you be bothered by one of these roaming your neighborhood? Tell us why in the comments below.

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Summer Camps

April 17th, 2018 No comments

Looking for summer camps. Here are some you might be interested in:

CodeCrew has a number of programming and robotics summer camps at various times and locations for grades 1-12. See there website: https://www.code-crew.org/events/ for more information.

Programs include coding, robotics, mobile app development and more….

The library and Cloud 901 have a number of summer camps for students ages 9-18. See http://www.memphislibrary.org/summer-camps/ for more information.

Programs include Robotics (including Lego Mindstorms), STEM, Art, and Music.

Festo’s New Bionic Robotis

April 5th, 2018 No comments

From: IEEE Specturm

Festo’s New Bionic Robots Include Rolling Spider, Flying Fox
The latest in weird and potentially useful robots from German automation giant Festo
By Evan Ackerman

We love Festo because every year they invest an entirely appropriate amount of time and money into bio-inspired robots that are totally cool and very functional but have limited usefulness. More often than not, it seems like Festo is able to take some of what it learns from designing and constructing these things and create practical new revenue-generating products. Which is good for them, and means they’ll keep making cool stuff. Over the last few years, we’ve met ants, butterflies, flying jellyfish and penguins, kangaroos, seagulls, and much more.

Festo has just announced its two newest bionic learning network robots—one is a very convincing flying fox, and the other is a walking, tumbling robot inspired by a Saharan spider.

Festo calls their BionicFlyingFox an “ultra-lightweight flying object with intelligent kinematics.” It’s 87 centimeters long with a 228-cm wingspan, but it weighs only 580 grams. Flying foxes are the largest bats in the world, and as such, their wings consist of membranes of skin rather than feathers. Mimicking that required some creativity on Festo’s part:

The model’s flying membrane is wafer-thin and ultralight whilst also robust. It consists of two airtight films and a knitted elastane fabric, which are welded together at approximately 45,000 points. Due to its elasticity, it stays almost uncreased, even when the wings are retracted. The fabric’s honeycomb structure prevents small cracks in the flying membrane from getting bigger. This means that the BionicFlyingFox can continue flying even if the fabric sustains minor damage.

The wing is separated into primary and secondary control surfaces which are mechanically coupled together—on the upstroke, the primary folds in toward the secondary and extends back out again on the downstroke. Small motors in the body can adjust each wing separately, while a larger brushless dc motor does the flapping.

The robot is autonomous, sort of, in that it flies by itself but relies on a ground station for camera-based localization, and all of the computing is off-board. Festo uses machine learning to optimize the BionicFlyingFox’s flight behavior, such that every time it performs a maneuver, it gets just a little bit better. I’m not sure it’ll ever get good enough to stick an upside-down landing, though.

This crazy thing is BionicWheelBot. The design is a little more creatively bio-inspired than the flying fox; it’s based on the flic-flac spider, which lives in the Sahara and can move very quickly with a unique combination of cartwheel flips when it feels threatened:


The guy in that video who both discovered the spider and invented the original robot (Ingo Rechenberg, a bionics professor at TU Berlin) was also involved in the design of Festo’s version. As with the flying fox, the behavior of this robot is based very closely on the real thing:

Like its biological model, the BionicWheelBot has eight legs, which help it to both walk and roll. They are controlled by a total of 15 small motors, which fit in the knee joints and body. There are also 14 automatic-locking worm gear units that ensure that the spider only has to use energy when moving its legs—not, however, to keep its body upright when standing still.

In rolling mode, the BionicWheelBot does a somersault with its whole body, just like the real flic-flac spider. Thanks to the integrated inertial sensor, it always knows what position it is in and when it has to push off again. It, too, is therefore much faster when rolling than walking and can even overcome inclines of up to five per cent uphill.

Festo also made some more practical (if a bit less flashy) robotics announcements. The first is the BionicWorkplace, which integrates robots and a host of control devices and displays to help human users operate the system more effectively:

In the BionicWorkplace, the bionic robot arm works together with numerous assistance systems and peripheral devices, which are networked and communicate with each other. At the same time, artificial intelligence and machine learning methods turn the BionicWorkplace into a learning and anticipative system that continuously optimises itself.

The second is an educational “bionics training kit” designed for kids age 14 to 18, to be available in the United States and Germany:

Getting young people interested in technology is one of the main aims of our Bionic Learning Network. The Bionics4Education project brings the world of bionics together with the education sector. The interactive education concept allows a variety of topics relating to bionics to be experienced in the classroom. It consists of a digital learning environment and a practical training kit, which the pupils can use to make bionic prototypes in a creative manner.

The Bionics Kit, which in 2018 will be the first-ever bionics training kit to come onto the market in Germany and the USA, is aimed at pupils between 14 and 18 years old. The Bionics Kit gives young people the opportunity to solve problems using bionic methods in a creative and uncomplicated way – by building a bionic fish, a chameleon gripper or an elephant’s trunk with adaptive gripper with Fin Ray Effect®, for example.

As the basic equipment, the case contains all the components necessary to get started. This includes conventional small servo motors, electronics components and plastic elements such as Fin Ray® structures. The pupils’ task is to then sensibly combine these inventively with materials chosen by themselves. Cable ties, sandbags, cardboard, foam rubber and many other things are suitable for this, enabling the pupils to design their own reusable models.

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