Recently the University of Hawaii at Hilo hosted a robotics competition that put mining robots from seven universities on the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano. The Robotic International Space Mining Competition was the first of its kind, and was put on by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration System (PISCES).
The Johns Hopkins University robotics club assumed administrators would ask them immediately to dismantle the electronics that turned a staircase in their engineering building into a playable keyboard. But they didn’t — at least not right away. And the day after it was set up, they saw a professor on his hands and knees playing it, according to WBALTV. Each step has a sensor attached to a mini controller that tells it to play a certain note in the C major scale, according to the article. The club can also change the sounds of the instruments it plays.
The giant keyboard has drawn crowds since being installed, and the club members hope it will stir some interest from students looking to join the club or think about robotics as a study path. They’ve been inspired by this pop-up project and how much attention it’s gotten, and they plan to install different interactive projects in the future.
The New York Times called an international robotics competition that was held last month in Florida by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) “a woodstock for robots”. The DARPA Robotics Competition pitted 16 teams against each other in a challenge to design and test the best robot that could perform a number of different missions that would be similar to tasks in a human rescue mission.
The Japanese team Schaft swept the competition with a robot that performed all eight tasks almost flawlessly, beating out the next best team – IHMC Robotics from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition – by seven points.
Some might say the world is becoming more automated by the day. Robots and artificial intelligence permeate our everyday lives, from doing the dangerous jobs that humans previously performed in manufacturing to asking Apple’s Siri where the nearest coffee shop is. Engineers and educators are starting to see the advantages of teaching young students, from elementary students to high school seniors, the basics of building and operating robots. And they’re doing it in novel ways that are meant to cut costs without cutting learning possibilities.
Below the cut, read about two companies started by engineering students who are bringing robotics to classrooms around the country.
U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been taking to the skies since the Air Force first developed them in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen six U.S. sites for testing and researching unmanned aircraft, and Congress hopes that by 2015, they will be integrated into the U.S. airspace. According to the New York Times, privately-owned drones the size of tiny helicopters could be used to inspect broken power lines, and styrofoam planes could fly over fields to look for agriculture pests and help determine better farming practices.
But the unmanned aircraft industry is relatively young compared to that of manned airplanes and helicopters, says L. D. Chen, director of engineering and computing sciences at Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi. TAMU-CC is one of the FAA’s six chosen sites, and will work with the administration to research the best ways to control a drone’s guidance, control, and recovery systems.