Sunday, December 16, 2018

Student Robotics: Bringing Vision, Opportunity, and Inspiration to Young People of Economically Stressed Kenya

I received an inspiring email from Brian Mwevi, describing some important work involving young people and robotics in Kibera, an 'informal settlement' on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.

Please watch the video above and read Brian's note. Further, I recommend you take a close look at the final paragraph, watch the 2nd video, and visit the INDIEGOGO campaign, all below.  

"We are Tunapanda Institute, a social enterprise that focuses on the future of learning and working, beginning in sub-Saharan Africa. For the past 4 years, we have run training programs in technology, design, and business for young people in an informal settlement called Kibera.

I graduated from Tunapanda’s 7th cohort in 2017 and then joined the team as a tech trainer. I'm passionate about robotics and curious about solving the world's problems by sharing knowledge with the community. Recently, through Tunapanda Institute, I did a 5-day robotics bootcamp with kids here in Kibera using Lego Mindstorms blocks. We also created a video about the bootcamp and how excited the kids were (above)

We are now working on a new program to help young people imagine space travel while also developing important skills for here on Earth, such as critical thinking and problem-solving through robotics..."  link to INDIEGOGO campaign

Friday, December 14, 2018

High School Girl Builds Robot for Local Sheriff's Department

Oak Park teen saving local law enforcement hundreds of dollars with robotics project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jaeza Robertson, 17, of Oak Park High School, is a unique young lady.
She has an impressive resume in the classroom, a National Hispanic Merit Scholar, AP Scholar, and a Wendy Heisman Scholarship recipient.

You could call her the "queen of robotics.

"I like to weld. That's what I really like to do. Welding is really fun."
The self proclaimed "Tom Boy" has a passion for sports and robotics.
In fact, her efforts on a project will save her local law enforcement office hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I started a team in my basement, it was like Legos."
That was at the age of 11.

"I became a little bit obsessed in my basement trying to figure, 'oh how can we make this one better? How can we do better on this?' And it really captured my imagination."

Fastforward six years and Jaeza is already a world championship winner.
There were 140 teams who had managed to advance to the final level out of thousands and thousands of teams. Jaeza and her team, The Astromechs were given the challenge to build a robot that stacks cubes.
"We had this lifter that folded up with a single motor and it was spring powered so it folded up and we would load cubes on top of it, and then it would spring up."

It certainly captured the attention of the judges. Jaeza and her team of 11 took home the innovative design award at the competition in Houston, Texas.

"When I have a project I'm working on I'm really focused on pushing to the finish line."
Jaeza and her Oak Park High School's robotics team are building a robot that will be a part of the department's crisis negotiations team.

In fact, once fully operational, it will be used in hostage situations to get necessary items to those requesting them, without putting members of the force directly in harms way.
Something like this doesn't come cheap.

"We're working on mounting an arm to open doors and things like that," Jaeza said.
Major Erik Holland with the Platte County Sheriff's Office said a robot of this caliber would typically cost in the six figures. But with the help of Jaeza and her robotics team, the price tag is right about $5,000.
Her efforts are being praised by folks around the world.

The Oak Park senior plans to become a biological systems engineer, saying she wants to make human life better through engineering. Clearly, she is well on her way.
"This is important to me. It's important to me to give back to the community."

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Powerful Impact of a Robotics Team on A School's Student Body

The transformative impact that this school's robotics team has had on its students is  hard to measure. Now, completing its first 20 years it is going stronger than ever. Morris High School is in an urban, inner city neighborhood in the Bronx (NYC), yet it is unquestionably one of the most successful teams ever !!! Congratulations, 2TrainRobotics!

Read the full story at its source:


Morris HS’s 2TrainRobotics celebrates 20th anniversary

Schneps Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell
Schneps Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell
Students design 3D components to robot
By Alex Mitchell
Schneps Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell
Last year’s robot, Zoidberg.
Schneps Community News Group/ Alex Mitchell
The robot’s series of controls.

Sometime during the upcoming 2019 MLB season the New York Yankees will get a glimpse of what its future talent pool may look like when a ‘bot’ throws out the game’s first pitch.
The event will mark Morris High School robotics team’s 20th anniversary. The celebrated robotics team has come a very long way since Windows 98.
First booted up by Morris High School business teacher Gary Israel in 1999, it was the Bronx’ first ever robotics team and it had a lot to prove.
After winning countless competitions, earning sponsorships from the New York Yankees and Bloomberg, in addition to landing a workspace at Columbia University’s school of Engineering, the Morris High School team did just that.
Now called 2TrainRobotics, it’s nothing but business for the 30-plus student squad under the tutelage of Columbia lab manager, Bob Stark as they begin preparations for the Saturday, January 5 kickoff to the season.
It’s then that 2TrainRobotics along with their competition will learn the parameters of what they will be building and tinkering with over the following six weeks.
Played out in an indoor arena about the size of a tennis court, the competitions usually entail skill trials for the robots, rather than having them go on a destructive rampage.
“It’s not like battle bots where the objective is to destroy the other team’s robot,” said Columbia engineering student and 2TrainRobotics mentor Noah Silverstein. “Although it’s definitely a contact sport,” the mentor added.
Last year’s major competition involved the robots stacking up cubes and other similar tasks.
Being that this year’s big event takes place at Columbia, 2TrainRobotics has somewhat of a home field advantage.
Right now in the ‘preseason,’ teammates are practicing on their 120 pound, 10-foot tall extending bot, Zoidberg, named for the eccentric ‘Futurama’ character.
With a top speed of 15 feet per second, the bot runs on two stick controls like that of a dated military tank in addition to a modified Xbox controller that handles Zoidberg’s abilities.
While most of those abilities come from its student-made artificial intelligence that gives it the ability to pick up objects independently, the Xbox controller can extend and contract the bot’s extensive neck.
It also has it’s own Wi-Fi network and series of micro-cameras.
While all of that is comprehensive enough, building and running the robot is the easiest part of being on the team, according to Silverstein.
“Students have to market the robot, budget for what it will cost, promote it through social media, organize community events, recruit sponsors and new teammates, meet quotas in addition to so much more,” Silverstein said. “It’s really like running a business and the product, in this case the robot, is only one of many components,” he added.
At one of those community events Jarrell Dukes from Co-op City, who has a special interest in propulsion engineering and coding, joined the team.
He’s one of many new recruits from other schools around the Bronx and the city, now that 2TrainRobotics has expanded to allow just about any city student with an interest in robotics.
2TrainRobotics members have a 100% high school graduation rate. Many return as mentors to advise the future teams.
The team is now designing another robot for this upcoming season, which is scheduled to be showcased before a Bronx Bombers game.