This past weekend, the team was honored to be invited to exhibit at the Men of Color Lunch and Learn organized by cs4all at the Tata Innovation Center at Cornell Tech. We were part of an exhibition showcasing the potential uses of CS education in K-12 education (but who are we kidding, we were there to drive robots around). This was an important event for us too, as getting more teachers into teaching STEM topics and CS would bode well for getting more students into robotics and other STEM careers.
The day started with the students taking a very long breakfast, while the mentors unloaded and set up our booth (hey, if the students have to build the competition robot, the mentors ought to do some manual labor too!). We were set up in an open area next to another FRC team, a drone demonstration and demos with a Dash robot. On our part, we brought our 2018 FIRST Power-Up robot, and a small demo robot that we call “peanut” (totally not named for the type of structure used to build it).
We kept the 2018 robot operational specifically for demo purposes (it’s fairly compact, although oh so heavy), so getting it updated and set up to drive took no time at all. We also marked out a course with masking tape on the carpet, to showcase one of Peanut’s special abilities: Precision line following!
Peanut uses the same camera system that’s on our 2019 competition robot Ms Calculated to find and track lines. In fact, Peanut was used as a test bed to get the control algorithms just right before transplanting that code over to Ms Calculated.
For demo purposes, we dial the power of the robots WAY down, to make it much safer to operate in tight confines. This also let us hand control over to people in the crowd who were interested in robotics and wanted to try their hand at driving a robot. We had quite a number of eager volunteers come up to drive, and only a few near misses!
Following the exhibition segment, the team hung around to participate in the rest of the lunch and learn session, although we all know that we were really there for the lunch part of the lunch and learn. The students split up during the breakout activities (which coincidentally involved programming robots), and wouldn’t you know it, both sets of team reps won their programming competitions! We now have two new robots to add to the G-House family, and while they are significantly smaller than even Peanut, we’re sure to find some uses for them in the shop!
This event was a great break from the competition season (since we’re in the process of preparing for our first regional event). We’re looking forward to being able to showcase our robots at more events in the future!