Robot Club Visit school
Yesterday we welcomed a group of 25 kids from a local primary school. These 12 -year-olds had already made their first steps towards becoming robotics engineers: in their school’s Robot Project they scavenged their parents’ old cell phones, bicycle led lights and toothbrushes and created their own working bristle bots!
Now, they wanted to see what we were up to at DoBots.
The kids were introduced to our company in two sessions. In the meeting room, our CTO Peet van Tooren gave them a quick masterclass on swarm robotics, learning, evolution, and even self-organisation.
To our surprise, the kids were really quick to understand even these complicated topics, and the discussion soon became more philosophical: what is a robot? Is a simulated robot really a robot, or just a computer programme? What rules do we need to teach our robots? How can it become independent and evolve? What does a robot like; can it have feelings?
But most fun was to be had in the attic, normally our break room, now transformed into a kids’ robotics lab. One of our junior researchers, Bart van Vliet, explained the basics of programming: teaching your robot rules, so it behaves the way you want it.
Luckily, we had some boxes of Lego Mindstorm building blocks lying around, a great tool for researchers, but also a great starting kit for kids. The boys and girls quickly started assembling their cars, bi- and tricycles, and got to work getting them to react to sensor data from push, light and ultrasonic sensors.
Funny to see how some of them really think their project through, while others just start building things and pressing buttons, with many great and surprising results!
To top the day off, we showed the kids some of the more serious bots that we are working with; the impressive smartphone-controlled Parrot, the programmable Caterpillar. Also a bit hit: some of the cheap RC-helicopters that they were allowed to smash into the ceiling themselves.
After three hours, we said goodbye to our visitors. Perhaps we’ll welcome them back in a year or ten, as junior researcher?
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