Robot Invasion of SXSW: Success

Just got back from SXSW in Austin. What an awesome trip – and awesome city! Going there was an experience in itself. I took a ride on the StartupBus – a bus full of entrepreneurs trying to launch a company in 48 hours on the way to SXSW. There was a lot of the same energy you find in robot building, especially the pit area. As for SXSW adventures, the first day after landing we were at Dorkbot – a “science fair” full of geeky projects. Bots High had a booth there, in the middle of roaming robots, egg drop contests, and electricity orchestras. Met John Funk, who is working on a sci-fi series shot with miniatures and robot toys. He even built a robot out of toy parts. Over the weekend I found out Google was sponsoring a LEGO sumo robot battle – on a rooftop at midnight! Had to check it out. Talk about madness – a bunch of teams had been building for four hours, programming LEGO MindStorm kits and building autonomous robots to battle it out in table top sumo wrestling. It was a great event – and afterwards the LEGO’s were donated to local schools. Then came the big event – the Bots High screening. It was great – lots of laughs, great reaction. And a really great Q&A/discussion afterwards. Best question – why didn’t SXSW play it! University of Texas looked awesome, I wish I had more time to explore. As I was leaving I got a peak through a window to see The Vislab, a giant wall of 75 connected Dell monitors...

The Calm Before the Battle

Just finished lighting the arena. I’ve been helping build it since Saturday. It’s a beast. I’ve also found myself living on the roof of the arena for the past few days too. I think I might have been a cat in another life, hoping from beam to beam. Early registration starts tomorrow. Then more registration. Then the battles. It’ll be insanity meets awesomeness. And it’s National Robotics Week! Let the fun...

Obama Supports Bots High (Sort Of)

Earlier this morning President Obama gave a speech pushing for better STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education in middle and high school. Well if you’re looking for a documentary about all of that then look no further because that’s what Bots High is all about. The MythBusters were in attendance (way cool!) and the winning robot from the FIRST robotics competition gave a demonstration. Some good quotes and initiatives: As President, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering… And today, I’m announcing that we’re going to have an annual science fair at the White House with the winners of national competitions in science and technology. If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be. Hopefully with BattleBots making it’s return to TV on December 10th the winners from next year’s competition will be invited to the White House (though a BattleBots demonstration might be considered a threat to national security). Here’s the full speech below (full transcript (via Bad...

U.S. Teens vs The World in Math and Sci – Not so Hot

Not really a surprise that America is getting more uneducated. But how do American teens compare to the rest of the world when it comes to math and science? Not so hot. The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) does a test every three years assessing 15 year old high school students in math, science, and reading in 57 countries and ranking them from Level 1 to 6, where Level 6 students can apply scientific knowledge and knowledge about science to complex life situations, and Level 1 students have very limited knowledge that can only be applied to familiar situations and don’t do so hot in society. The test is designed more around testing applications to everyday life rather than fact recollection. So how where do U.S. students stand? Here’s the chart: 36 out of 57. 24.4 percent, almost a quarter of the U.S. students, are at a Level 1 or lower. Here’s the full report. The test is done every three years, with a new one being done this year. With all the budget cuts in education I wouldn’t be expecting much, if any, of an improvement. You probably already see where I’m going with this. BattleBots in high school is a program all about practical applications of math and science, and most importantly it makes it fun. Furthermore, here’s some more fun facts gathered from another report on the top performers from this study. Results indicate that print and television media have the most influence over students in communicating information about science beyond the classroom (OECD, 2007). Top performers in science engage in science-related activities relatively...