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Happy 2015

Happy new year. I know it’s a full month into the year, but since this is the first post on the new site in the new year I figured that would be a good way to start.

This is going to be a big year for the Robot Group. Someone made the mistake of giving me authoretah so I’m going to make things happen. Of course it can’t be all me, all of y’all will have to pitch in, be active, and get excited. In my new role as the PR-bot it’s my job to reach out to the community at large, make our presence known, and start attracting new members. In order to do that we have  a little house keeping to do first.

 

Starting with this new web site. On the new site you will find

  • Lists of events we will be involved in, including our regular meetings
  • Articles about group interests including member projects, robots, and a Makers section for those non-robotic projects
  • Photo galleries from our past to the present
  • A DIY/Tutorial section for articles to help you get things done
  • and a Getting Started section for those new to robotics and want to learn the basics

In the About section you will find information about the Robot Group, membership information, and instructions for how to post articles for the site. This is a member driven group and site. That means we need you to give us content. We’ll try to make it as easy for you as possible so if you have any questions let us know.

Beyond the new web site we are adding a lot more structure back into our meetings. Starting in February we are giving our weekly meetings purpose.

The first Thursday of the month will be our big monthly meeting. We are working on lining up speakers and presentations for these meetings. Specifically we are looking inside the group and out for industry experts, interesting projects, interesting technologies, and even sometimes product demos from manufacturers. There will also be time dedicated for you to show off your projects. The show and tell part of the meeting will be an opportunity to show off what you’ve been working on, ask advice, and check out what others are doing. These will be super casual. The agenda for these meetings will look something like this:

  • 7:30 – Meet and greet
  • 8:00 – Call to order and general business
  • 8:15 – Presentation
  • 9:00 – Show and tell
  • 9:30 – wrap it up

Second Thursdays will be Beginning Robotics. This is an open, fairly free form night where we present topics about robotics basics. We will be trying to format these nights in a way in which we can continuously present compelling material while still leaving enough flexibility for new comers to not feel left behind. It’s no fun coming into the middle of something and not knowing what’s being talked about. These nights we will probably need a couple veterans available to help out and do some tutoring to small groups of new comers. Right out the gate I am planning an introduction to Arduino since it is the most accessible and most prevalent microprocessor in the hobby market. The idea is to have you moving a servo by the end of the night. I also want to put together a basic robot kit to get people started. Something unique to the Robot Group, simple, but flexible enough it can be adapted to different experiments or even Fifth Thursday, But we’ll get to that.

Third Thursday will be Maker night. This is a night set aside for non-robot topics and projects. We have a very diverse group and not everyone is necessarily working on a robot. The great thing about robotics is it spans multiple disciplines. A lot of the techniques and processes we use in robotics are also used in other projects; art, home automation, and countless other areas. I will admit here, however, this is not my area and I’m really counting on the you members to step up and help out here.

Fourth Thursday we get back to robotics with intermediate and advanced topics. Some of these topics will include AI, human-robot interaction, new materials applications, computer vision, and many more. Like the introduction nights we will be getting hands on, trying new sensors, different algorithms, new manipulators; the possibilities are endless. Again, since I am fairly new to robotics and getting back into electronics, I will be looking to our members to step up and take some of these nights. I know Yama is coming strong out of the gate with memory metals.

Fifth Thursdays… There are periodic months where there is a fifth Thursday; five this year but four most. These very special nights will be where we put what we’re learning to the test with competitions. These are not necessarily head to head combat scenarios; I’m not talking Battlebots here. Although there are a few challenges where robots may compete directly opposed such as sumo-bot, robot soccer, or some variation of a collection challenge (Hungry-Hungry Robots?). Many of the challenges will be designed to compete against yourself more than anything, though leader boards are called for. Examples may be obstacle courses, fastest times for line followers, fastest time to solve a maze, Magellan competitions, or take a page out of the DARPA play book and autonomously perform a task. The specific challenges will be determined by member interest and the robots. It’s no use having a ladder climbing competition if no-one is building a ladder climbing robot. The idea is to give us a goal to work towards. Once interest in these events becomes large enough to support it, I’d like to see us create a large annual event, perhaps at the Maker Fairs (mini or otherwise).

There is a lot of change proposed here. All of it requires help and participation from the group as a whole. And, at first, we may not see a lot of activity. But I promise, once we get this cadence down and get the word out, we will grow.

So, again, I say happy new year. Now get building.