Jeff Barr's Blog

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Seattle Mind Camp Robot

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the first-ever Seattle Mind Camp this past weekend.

I spent a lot of time talking to the two guys from the Titan Robotics Club of Bellevue. They run a robotics club at the Bellevue International School. Each year they raise $20 to $30K to fund the club, the students design and build a robot, and then they travel to a series of competitions. This year’s robot (“Tyr“) took first place at the local and regional competition. This is not a destructive competition. Instead, the robots must complete a series of tasks, some autonomous and others under remote control.

After looking at the robot for quite a while it was clear that the students must learn a number of valuable real-world skills, including planning, organizing, engineering, coding, debugging, welding, soldering, and so forth.

I got to drive the robot, and managed to accomplish the specified task, which consisted of picking up a small tetrahedron and placing it on the larger one. The robot responds to the controls in a slightly non-linear fashion, and this (along with my lack of fine motor skills) made for an interesting time. I backed up a bit too quickly, and managed to back the robot straight in to the dessert table:

Oops, pushed it a bit too hard

Fortunately, my friend Tom (developer of the very cool Inet Word online editing tool) was there to memorialize the event with a picture.

If you think that what this group is doing is as worthwhile as I do, then it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to become a sponsor. I won’t editorialize too much here, but it is a bit distressing to see how much money high schools will spend on athletics programs, and how little goes in to other worthwhile activities like this one. The club spends a lot of time raising funds; they would prefer to spend their time working with the students and building better robots.