Sunday, October 28, 2018

At Morris High School in the South Bronx, it's cool to be on the robot squad!

From this morning's 'in box'... sent by Gary Israel, manager and all around "mother hen" of the Morris High School FIRST Robotics team 2TrainRobotics... 

Dear Friends of Morris H.S Robotics Team,

Leading up to next year's 20th anniversary of the Morris High School Robotics Team I will be sharing stories, articles, memories and most importantly photos of the team. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

The article below was written on the 10th anniversary of the robotics team. That year the team was a New York City FIRST 2009 Semifinalists, the Philadelphia FIRST 2009 Robotics Regional Winner and in April the team traveled to Atlanta to compete in our 7th consecutive FIRST Robotics Championship competition in Atlanta.


         In Pictures: Making A Robot

At Morris High School, a public school in the South Bronx, it's cool to be on the robot squad.

For 10 years, Morris High has fielded its 2TrainRobotics team to a robot competition called FIRST Robotics, a battle of minds and machines. The team has gotten financial support from alumni, friends and sponsors, including the New York Yankees.
Together, some dedicated high school students, Columbia University student mentors and passionate adults worked for six weeks to build a fully functional robot to compete in New York City's FIRST Regional Championships in early March. The Morris High's team placed in the top 12 out of 66 teams.

At Work on the Robot
© Stephen Aviano for Forbes

At Work on the Robot

Morris High School students Adam Cohen and Daniel Espinal work on the robot at Columbia University's engineering lab. In addition to building the robot, FIRST team members handle the fundraising, marketing and budgeting. While the students put in long hours in the lab after school, they must also maintain a C+ average to stay on the team.

Robot Brain

This year, National Instruments donated a $5,000 robot "brain" to each of the 1,700 FIRST Robotics teams across the U.S. The brain, dubbed CompactRIO, is a controller platform that includes programming software.

At the Lab
© Stephen Aviano for Forbes

At the Lab

At Columbia's engineering lab, Gabriel Ruiz (right) and Henry Jones (left) work on the part of the robot that pulls the moon rocks up to the top of frame and shoots them out. Gabriel Ruiz is a senior at Morris High School. Henry Jones, an environmental engineering student at Columbia University, spent four years on a FIRST robotics team in high school and now mentors the 2TrainRobotics team. "I'll probably be involved in FIRST in someway for the rest of my life," he says.

In the Basement
© Stephen Aviano for Forbes
The team practices in the basement of Columbia University's engineering school, often pulling all-nighters to finish the robot. The team will go to the national FIRST championship in Atlanta in April this year.

Tan Tan
Tan Tan
The final product: 2TrainRobotics's robot in its first competition at the N.Y. Regional Championship. Altogether, materials to build the 119-pound moon rock-throwing robot exceeded $7,000 (including the donated $5,000 "brain"). After much debate, the students named their robot Tan Tan, their term for "that's cool." Last year the team's robot was named Killer Cupcake.

Robot Driving

Robot Driving

The students compete days before the competition to decide who drives the robot at the competition. This year, Noah Kleinberg (right) was picked as the fastest driver. Gabriel Ruiz (left), who was injured at the competition, shows that robotics can be just as rough as high school sports like wrestling or basketball.

A Game Called Lunacy

A Game Called Lunacy

The object of the robots' challenge, called Lunacy, was to suck up as many "moon rocks" (made out of plastic strips) as possible and place them in the opposing team's goal--a trailer hitched to the back of the robot--in just over two minutes. Teams of three robots play against each other while students toss moon rocks onto the playing field from the sidelines.

Intelligence Gathering

Intelligence Gathering

While their robot Tan Tan wasn't competing, the students did some scouting, taking notes on their competition. FIRST reaches kids who might never have thought about how much fun or accessible science and technology can be, and it helps them think realistically about careers in science and technology.

A Victorious Round

A Victorious Round

Building robots can be life changing. Says team member Gabriel Ruiz: "FIRST made me feel better about myself. It gave me a chance to see myself in a different light. It helped me to realize I can actually be something. The team became more of a family than my family. I think everyone deserves to feel something like that."

Celebrity Support

Fred Armisen, a comedian from Saturday Night Live, showed up at the New York Regional Championship and let everyone know that he, too, is a nerd. "You are all geniuses! Give yourselves a huge cheer," shouted Armisen. Each year Kamen arranges celebrity endorsements, including in the past from Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and YouTube founder Chad Hurley.
2TrainRobotics Team

2TrainRobotics Team

2TrainRobotics has won a number of awards, including two NASA/FIRST Robotics grants, regional championships, engineering awards and industrial design awards, and have been honored at Yankee Stadium seven years in a row. Gary Israel, the team coordinator, says one of the highlights was when Morris High School alum and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell presented the team with a medal in 2002.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Awesome Animal Robots Kids Will Love and Learn From

From School Library Journal... 

"5 Awesome Animal Robots You Have to See to Believe

AI inspired by the animal kingdom.

Ever dreamed of having a robot as a pet? Dream even further! These animal-inspired robots are being used to perform extraordinary tasks, as roboticists turn to the natural world for inspiration. From Octobots to RoboBees, these five extraordinary creations from DK's book Robot will change the way you think about technology. Get ready for a high-tech safari!

Octobot | Biomimetic robot

Manufacturer: Harvard University
Origin: USA
Developed: 2016
Size: 2.5 inches long
An octopus has no skeleton, and, similarly, there is no tough technology in Octobot’s tiny tentacles. Octobot is the world’s first completely soft, autonomous robot. Forget batteries, microchips, and computer control. Instead, this bot is 3D printed using soft silicone, and powered by a chemical reaction. It took a team from Harvard University more than 300 attempts to successfully create Octobot, using a fluid-filled circuit flowing through its silicone body. In future, similar soft bots could be used for sea rescue and military surveillance, as they can fit into narrow spaces and mold into their environment.

BionicKangaroo | Biomimetic robot

Manufacturer: Festo
Origin: Germany
Height: 3.3 feet
Everyone’s favorite Australian animal has taken a technological twist in the form of the BionicKangaroo. This big bouncer can jump like a real kangaroo, reaching 6 inches high over a distance of 32 inches. The German manufacturers studied the kangaroo’s unique motion for two years before perfecting this artificial adaptation. A series of motors, sensors, and energy-storing legs ensure the BionicKangaroo never tires.

RoboBees | Swarm robot

Manufacturer: Harvard University
Origin: USA
Developed: 2013
Height: 0.75 inches
Great things do come in very small packages. The RoboBees are tiny flying robots developed by engineers at Harvard University. Assembled by hand under a microscope, RoboBees are fabricated from single sheets of carbon fiber, which are assembled and glued. RoboBees made their first controlled flight in 2013. They can take off and make short flights, changing direction easily and even hovering in midair. Each RoboBee weighs as little as 0.003 ounces – it would take a dozen of these minuscule mini-bots to equal the weight of a jelly bean!

Eelume | Work robot

Manufacturer: Eelume AS
Origin: Norway
Developed: 2016
Weight: Up to 165lbs
Developed for underwater use, this self-propelled bot has serpent-like agility and the streamlined swimming skills of an eel. Its body is made of modules that can be swapped and adapted to the task at hand. As oil and gas industries look for new ways to manage their off-shore installations, Eelume is at the forefront of the field of inspection, maintenance, and repair. Equipped with cameras, sensors, and a range of tools, this aquatic shape-shifter can be straight as a torpedo for long-distance travel, but agile and versatile enough to explore the places no diver or vessel can reach.

eMotion Butterflies | Swarm robot

Manufacturer: Festo
­Origin: Germany
Beautiful robotic butterflies, with wingspans of 1.5 feet, all flutter close to each other in a tight space. How do they do this without colliding? The secret is in how they are controlled from afar, using infrared cameras linked to a powerful central computer. The butterflies themselves are amazing feats of engineering, cramming in a microprocessor, sensors, and twin motors that beat their wings. Powerful batteries may allow this sort of technology to lead to flying robot flocks or swarms that can monitor remote pipelines and structures.

Monday, October 8, 2018

BRONX Team - 2Train Robotics Team #395 (Morris/CSS) Begins 20th Season in FIRST Robotics

Sent to me this morning by my friend Gary Israel...
Dear Friends of 2Train,

As many of you know, in addition to building robots and competing in robotics competitions in NYC and around the country, over the last 19 years the 2Train does many community service projects. This weekend we kicked off our 20th season by participating in the Co-op City College, Career & Resource Fair at The College of New Rochelle, School of New Resources, Co-op City Campus in our home town, the BRONX. Co-op City is the largest residential development in the United States serving middle and upper middle income New Yorkers of diverse backgrounds. More than 50,000 people reside in Co-op City.

People attending the event were given information about the team and the FIRST Robotics program; children were able to drive the robot.

As we prepare to build our 20th, completely different designed robot in January and then six weeks later begin to compete against teams from around the country and the world I want to thank all the students, teachers, mentors and sponsors for their support as 2Train looks forward to the next 20 years.

For more information about the team and how you can participate in the upcoming 20th anniversary celebration please go to

Co-op City, Bronx
2Train Mentors and Students
Evelyn M. Turner, on the left is the Lead Organizer for the Co-op City College, Career & Resource Fair.
Arleen Hogan, in the middle is the Campus Director, The College of New Rochelle School of New Resources Co-op City Campus.
Bervin Harris, President and CEO, Renaissance Youth Center, a big supporter of 2Train with Reuben Bridges, an original member of the 1999 2Train team and mentor for the past 15 years.
2Train student conductors Moshab Raman and Shadi Yadollahi Khales
Team 395 provides students with opportunities to pursue their goals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This is made possible by our dedicated mentors and amazing sponsors.
 For more information about getting on board the 2Train;

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Great Advice from a LEGO Education Master Educator

A pleasure to have known, and interviewed, and picked the brain of this colleague over many years. CONGRATULATIONS on this very nice piece, Ian Chow-Miller!!!