(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Where can you find tots tinkering with clap-sensor motor toys and LEGO robots 20 feet from a 500-pound military-grade bomb defuser? Hopefully nowhere other than at Delaware’s 4th Annual National Robotics Day.
A collaborative celebration sponsored by STEM education nonprofit Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering (FAME), iRobot Corporation, the National Robotics Week Advisory Council and Barclays Bank, the event aims to build student interest in STEM and innovation.
The main event at Barclays Bank on Saturday featured open demonstrations from multiple organizations across Delaware. But first, a panel comprised of robotics professionals discussed the importance of the industry and offered tips on how to get into STEM-oriented careers.
- M. Ani Hsieh, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics, Drexel University)
- Monroe Kennedy III (Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania)
- Dustyn Roberts, PE, Ph.D. (Department of Mechanical engineering & Biomechanics & Movement Science Program, University of Delaware)
Kennedy suggested that those interested in actually building robots look into studies in electrical engineering or computer science. Building a functioning robot, he said, is a team effort.
“Someone had to design the chips, someone had to program the chips, someone had to design the circuits, someone had determine what materials for the body needed to be used,” Kennedy said. “Finally, someone had to apply it and make control routines so that you can use it and everything is as easy as it looks.”
At the end of the discussion, panelists fielded questions from students in the audience, such as “how long does it take to build a robot?”
“It totally depends on what your goal is. I could build you a robot in 14 minutes like the kit robot we [use] in one of our classes, or I could build you a robot in three years,” said Roberts. “That’s the one that went to Mars.”
The panel concluded with a guest appearance from Sen. Tom Carper, who talked about his time as a naval flight officer in the Navy and the role of robotics in military service.
Carper advised the youth to entertain the idea of getting into ROTC to study science, technology, math and engineering. “A lot of those folks can go to school almost for free,” he said.
Then onto the Block Party.
An entire room in Barclays Bank was teeming with all kinds of robotics. There were demonstrations from, among many, Newark-based 3D printing shop Sovereign Air, robotics competition team Middletown Robotics, Delaware Valley-based STEM organization Mad Science and Delaware State Police, which had its F6-A ANDROS military robot on display.
The F6-A is primarily used by SWAT in situations where a bomb needs to be defused. It’s capabilities are impressive, but still: few earthly machines will ever be able to compete with motorized LEGO inventions.