TechHive Fall 2017: Day 8 // Ripping Apart a Fog Machine

On Day 8, all of our interns continued working on the physical prototyping of their AR box, programming their Arduino to control all the interactive components, and perfecting the app they were developing to give visitors access to the final project. One of our interns, Emanuel Gordis, focused on taking apart and modifying a fog machine to use in his team's project which focused on carbon emissions in an urban landscape.

Emanuel's goal was to to be able to create a bluetooth enabled fog machine controlled by an arduino. At first, there was no obvious way to do that, but he was determined to figure it out. With the help of one of our volunteers, Dominic Dighera, he was able to analyze the button used to turn the fog machine on. He needed to understand what part of the circuit the button was closing and replace it with a relay that allowed him to turn the machine on and off. He used a relay because it allowed him to switch high voltage alternating current using the low voltage digital pin output of the arduino.

First, Emanuel needed to design a circuit to implement the relay. Since the relay didn't fit onto a bread board, his circuit needed to be soldered onto a protoboard instead and tested using a multi-meter. He needed to conduct continuity tests which confirmed his circuit was soldered together properly. Then he needed to perform a functionality test using a 9V battery to close the relay. Once this all worked, he had successfully built a circuit that turned on his fog machine!

His next steps are to implement a fan to blow the fog out of the box so it doesn't completely block the Raspberry Pi camera's view as it streams to the Google Cardboard headset. His big goals are to connect it in a very similar way to an external, higher voltage power supply and figure out a way to use his arduino to control it via bluetooth. We can't wait to see how he uses this fog machine in his final project!

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TechHive Fall 2017: Day 8 // AR Urban Landscape Project Update

By: Catherine Zhao

Our team is currently working on the modeling of a city-integrated renewable energy for sustainability projects. As urban environments continue to experience sharp rises in population density, they are becoming increasingly responsible for global climate change by the emission of greenhouse gases. By exploring alternative energy sources and visualizing the possibilities for the reduction of energy consumption in daily life, we hope that our approach will expose the general public to the real implications of their energy usage.

Hybrid cars and carpooling are represented as potential solutions to high emissions, as well as encouraging individuals to walk or bike to locations. Improved infrastructure will allow support for creating renewable energy technologies, increased energy efficiency, and more widespread energy generation systems. More large-scale projects could include harnessing wind energy, which has the potential to resolve concerns related to the combustion of fossil fuels.

Alternatively, plans to utilize biomass energies are a possibility, although many proponents agree that the current processes produce low power densities and are often reliant on the regional climate and temperature cycles. We propose a variety of behavioral decisions that can significantly impact the overall emission rates from cities: each mundane choice seems to only minimally affect our own personal lives, but the overall outcome reflects a much more momentous shift towards a sustainability. Our suggestions include the more well-known tips for energy conservation, including turning off lights and taps when not in use and cutting down on shower times and unplugging devices.

By implementing an experience that utilizes augmented reality and audiovisual components, we hope to express how our daily lives are intertwined with our relationship to the environment around us. For example, in order to better represent how our water usage can be shrunk, we added audio of water rushing in order to trigger auditory stimuli and enhance the reality of the situation. Featured in the box are multiple pedestrians who are walking to work and their respective locations; this is the method of reducing energy consumption that we would like to present to visitors at the museum. Besides the people commuting to work, bikers, passengers on public transport, and carpooling in hybrid cars are also potential alternatives that are exaggerated in our virtual world. As the city fades to night, lights flicker on around multiple high-rises, although tips quickly pop out near the periphery of the user's vision that remind them to be conscious of their water usage late at night and to cut down electricity.

Even though programs and flyers in the past have promoted these practices, we strongly believe that younger children and visitors at the museum will be more inclined to actually implement our suggestions and tips if they are able to experience and learn about them firsthand and in more personalized augmented reality interactions. 

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Meet Catherine Zhao:

In the past year, I have been exposed to data structures and other programming concepts. I initially didn't believe that data structures would be so interesting, but I found myself truly enjoying the learning process. I was able to complete a variety of projects (including a pseudo-machine learning text analyzer, chess, solitaire, tetris, breakout, etc). After enrolling in data structures, I took UCSD's data structures course on Coursera to challenge myself to complete harder projects. On the side, I have explored some practical applications of tech in designing scientific visualizations (for demonstrating the effects of seasonal influenza viruses on cystic fibrosis patients). A few of my friends and I also participated in a small hackathon and created an app designed to improve the standard of public safety and promote community unity for our city. As a TechHive intern at the Lawrence Hall of Science, I'm working along side other interns to create an interactive museum exhibit implementing an augmented reality experience. Our goal is to educate museum visitors about the effects of our carbon footprint in an urban landscape in a fun and immersive way.

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 7 // "How to Make a Good Impression."

We split up all the interns throughout the day and had them either continue working on their final project or participate in our professional development workshop. Day 7 was all about "How to Make a Good Impression" which focused on cultivating their networking skills. Our idea of "Good Impressions" also included having all the interns wear business style attire for their professional headshots. This gave them both the sense of what kind of clothes are appropriate in a professional setting and equipped them with a great headshot they could use for a variety of reasons.

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We made sure they had the full experience of a photoshoot so they could leave with a few professional headshots that they could be proud of. They all looked great and took amazing photos! Our interns really represented TechHive well today.

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For our workshop of the day, we focused on their elevator speeches, handshakes, professional bios, and LinkedIn (which would be a great opportunity for them to use their headshots!)

First, we had the interns work on their elevator speeches. They learned how to highlight themselves and their accomplishments in a perfect 30-60 seconds. They practiced and critiqued each other, which always proves to be a valuable and necessary skill.

While they practiced with each other, we also made sure they perfected the art of a good handshake. Look at their perfectly firm and natural handshakes!

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Next, we had to talk about how to write a great professional bio and how to use LinkedIn. We used the LinkedIn Profile Checklist for high schoolers and made them think critically about all the unique skills they bring to the table.

A professional bio and LinkedIn are great ways for our interns to learn how to tell their stories. Each of them bring a variety of skills, talents, knowledge, accomplishments and value to TechHive and our goal is to equip them with ways to understand and learn that from themselves and others! 

 

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 6 // "The Essence of a Good Resume"

TechHive is a comprehensive internship where we teach high schoolers valuable skills, such as programming and prototyping, AND also provide opportunities for them to develop both personally and professionally. On Day 6, we split up the interns into smaller groups in order to implement one of our workshops, "The Essence of a Good Resume." We had the opportunity to learn about what they need to do to showcase the skills and talents they have on their resume!

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The workshop was particularly relevant for our senior interns who are currently applying to colleges, writing personal statements, and submitting resumes for a variety of reasons. We talked all about the quick tips for formatting, what sections to include, and MOST IMPORTANTLY how to write really great descriptions about their experiences!

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Since TechHive also emphasizes team work and collaboration (important skills to add to a resume!) our interns had the opportunity to read and review each other's drafts. This gave them valuable, one-on-one, peer perspective feedback. It also enabled them to critically think about what their resumes reflect about themselves. They even had the chance to hear from one of our long time volunteers, Mary Thompson, and her experiences reading resumes/cover letters for internships when she worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Since many of our interns are interested in STEM careers, especially in computer science and engineering, this was valuable insight for them to have.

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One of our goals in TechHive is to empower and equip our high school interns with the skills necessary to succeed after they complete this internship. After engaging in substantiative, problem solving team work and creating an interactive final project, they'll also have the professional tools necessary to showcase all the amazing work that they've done!

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This is just one of many professional development opportunities we have for our TechHive Interns! See you next Saturday!

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 6 // The AR Box Experience!

After five weeks of solid skills building using Scratch, Hummingbird, Arduino, app development, and physical prototyping..... We were finally ready to talk about our final project! Our interns will work on this for the next few weeks and will showcase their interactive exhibits on the museum floor at Lawrence Hall of Science on December 2nd!

Their final project is an augmented reality box! Here's a sneak peek:

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Our final project has many complex, but interactive and fun, components. Each team plans on building an augmented reality environment within their box that will use a rotating Rasberry Pi camera module inside to stream via Wi-Fi to a Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer. Our interns will use arduinos to program interactive components inside the box which will be controlled by an app that they develop. The goal is to provide an educational and immersive experience for both parents and children! Since we are at the Lawrence Hall of Science, each team chose a theme related to some aspect of science.

Team TRAP SQUAD (Jessie, Emanuel, Karthika, Annette, Claire, Catherine) chose a theme on energy with a focus on urban infrastructure, sustainability, and renewable energy. They are planning a visual demonstration about how energy consumption and carbon footprints affect an urban landscape.

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Team JAKE PAULERS (Maxim, Matan, Kobe) took an astronomy related approach. They are planning an interactive space journey through the universe, viewing gas giants, modeling binary star systems and more. 

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Team ON POINT SQUAD (Aesha, Steven, Emily, Jenna) decided to take a natural science focus. They are planing on building their box around the four seasons and how they effect the Earth. They are planning a visual display of a cherry blossom tree through the seasons and also plan to tell the story of a tiger's life through time.

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Team THE PIGEONS (Yasmin, Yazmin, Jennifer) focused on a more environmental science related theme. They are planning an interactive journey through redwood forests and teaching about the animals and the environment within, such as the rivers and trees.

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Our TechHive Interns have great ideas and we are excited for them to design and implement their VR/AR experience with visitors in December!

 

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 5 // Arduinos, Apps, and More

Today was all about learning how to create apps using MIT App Inventor which is "an intuitive, visual programming environment that allows everyone – even children – to build fully functional apps for smartphones and tablets." MIT App Inventor uses block based tools to create simple to complex apps in an accessible and powerful way.

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Our project for the day involved a few new things to learn. Since they were exposed to the basics of programming with arduino last week, they expanded upon this knowledge with the integration of a bluetooth receiver which added a new dimension of connectivity to their projects. In addition, they needed to use MIT App Inventor to create an app that connected to the bluetooth module that implemented a user interface to be able to turn an LED on and off with the click of a button. 

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While the app seemed simple enough on the outside, this project involved a lot of complex mechanics both within the digital tools and physical tools they were using.

Afterwards, the interns worked on their Design Sprints for their apps in order to add fun elements, such as pictures, colors, videos, and more. One of the important aspects of developing apps is that our interns have to think about the user interface design that makes their product friendly and easy to use for their intended audience. The way a child would engage with a digital interface differs from how their parent would use the same interface. Since we are at the Lawrence Hall of Science, our interns needed to keep in mind what appeals to an intergenerational audience. This will be an integral part of their final project which we will be presenting ON DAY 6!

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See you next Saturday!

 

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 4 // Robot Petting Zoo Showcase

One of the goals of our TechHive internship is for high school interns to create an interactive museum exhibit as their final project. Not only do they get to learn and utilize valuable skills, such as programming and prototyping, but they also take part in promoting a hands on learning experience for visitors of all ages. In preparation for their final project, TechHive was able to do a mini-showcase of our Robot Petting Zoo on the museum floor on Day 4! After working on them for a couple days, each of the teams set up a table with their cardboard creations and a computer to run the many moving and blinking components of their design.

The goal was for visitors to “feed the animals” with fun and colorful puff balls that would activate the proximity sensors the interns had worked on perfecting

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This would activate movement, light, and sounds in different ways. For example, one of the robots would play the pokemon theme song, while another would scream and sound an alarm every time someone got close to it. Either way, our young visitors loved feeding them as many puff balls as they could as fast as they could!

The interns learned the importance of building a narrative with their intended audience -- in this case, both parents and children! Every parent was impressed with the idea of high schoolers building something fun and interactive for younger kids. One parent was totally surprised when she went to feed a fish and it quickly closed it’s mouth on her hands. She also loved the sound effects!

One of our young visitors noticed the interns were using Scratch and asked if he could try changing some things, such as how fast one of the robots was talking since he couldn’t hear it very well. We were happy to let him work on it and felt that it made the showcase even more interactive!

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Overall, both the interns and our visitors loved the welcoming, fun, creative aspects of our Robot Petting Zoo! It was a good learning experience for our interns to watch how children interact, play and learn with their creations.

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If you want to join our team of zookeepers, check out how to build your own Robot Petting Zoo here! Check out our Twitter to enjoy the rest of what our interns are up to! Happy making!

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 3 // Date with an Arduino

After everyone finished up working on their cardboard robot creations, we set them aside to be able to showcase them on the museum floor on Day 4. Now it was time for our DATE WITH AN ARDUINO!

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Arduino is a accessible, versatile, and resourceful open-source electronics platform. It’s a great transition from Hummingbird + Scratch and we were excited to have the interns start learning how to use it.

First, we talked about the basics of electronics. It was important for them to learn about basic circuitry such as the difference between open, closed, and short circuits. They also learned the basics of switches, resistors, and LEDs. We made sure they had exposure to how breadboards worked and how to read diagrams that we made from the fritzing app, an "open source hardware initiative that makes electronics accessible."

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Afterwards, we started working on our Arduinos with the best, most accessible project to work on: making an LED turn on and blink! The interns learned how to use the Arduino IDE and the basics of the code. They learned how to name variables, how to delay the LED blinking, the difference between analog and digital pins, and different functions.

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As an added bonus, we threw in how to use a potentiometer to make an LED dimmer or brighter. After several trials and errors, we realized that there was a small problem with our circuit diagram (can you spot it?) that was hindering our ability to make the circuit work. This was a great learning opportunity for our interns to learn how arduinos work more in depth and gave them the sense that nothing always works perfectly and patient troubleshooting is essential.

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It was a very productive day today! Next week, we'll be doing much more work with Arduino in preparation for our final project. We can't wait to continue learning more with our interns. 

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 3 // RPZ JUICE

We spent the first part of our day perfecting our Robot Petting Zoo creations using hummingbirds, Scratch, and lots of cardboard. Our teams continued making their robotic angler fish with lots of moving, blinking, blaring pieces using LEDs, servos and motion sensors.

We really stress the design process in TechHive as an important skill to learn. A vital component of this process is making sure everyone focuses on the “mechanics” of their projects before moving on to what we like to call “THE JUICE.” This is to make sure they don’t get distracted by the aesthetics before everything is fully functional. Once this team finished their mechanics, they worked on the flair by adding bits of balloons as scales and fluffy balls on top of it's head. They wanted to make sure it was appealing and fun in order to engage little kids.

The most frustrating part of the project was debugging and executing the code. They kept having issues with getting the Hummingbird controller to be detected by Scratch and adjusting the angles and movement of the motors. They found that the most effective way of overcoming this issue was by rebooting everything and debugging the program by breaking it up into little bits until they found the problem.

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Their goal of the day was to make something fun and interesting while learning and developing new skills. It was rewarding to see the end product because of how hard they worked on it and they can’t wait to see how the kids will react to it. They definitely made something fun, but are looking forward to creating the more ambitious projects that we have planned for them!

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TechHive Fall 2017: Day 2 // Magikarp and Other Robot Petting Zoo Creations

Day 2 was all about continuing work on our cardboard creations for the Robot Petting Zoo. We were also getting used to the Design Sprint process we’ve been implementing.

While the interns worked on building and adding artistic flare to their creations, they also learned some more programming skills. Some important blocks they got familiar with were the loop statements, such as forever, repeat, while, and for. They also learned about naming local variables and conditional statements, such as if-else. They used these blocks to be able to continuously repeat the different actions they wanted to incorporate into their project and were able to have more control over what they did.

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Besides learning how to program and design, another very important skill we cultivate in TechHive is the ability to effectively collaborate with each other. Our interns work together in all aspects of their projects, contributing to it with their different skill sets and gaining continual design feedback from each other. 

By working together, each group is able to learn with and from one another. Last week, each group focused on using LEDs and motors to make their creations light up and move. This week, the focus of the day was to incorporate a distance sensor into their projects, which allowed for some interesting and creative ideas. One team, Team KAEY, worked together to create a cardboard pokemon creation named Magikarp.

They wanted their distance sensor to detect them throwing a “pokeball” at their pokemon. This would activate its tail to move back and forth, have the LED flash different colors, and play the pokemon theme song.

Team KAEY learned a lot while working on this project, such as how to incorporate sounds they found online, how to make the LEDs blink, and how to set distance blocks in Scratch for the sensor. They also learned how specific they had to be when programming. They realized that their program doesn’t know to make the movements stop after one second -- they had to be very intentional and tell it to do that.

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They struggled with troubleshooting and making sure their Magikarp could actually move and that the sensors worked. Every time they wanted to show off their project, it seemed like something would fall apart. But they looked at it as a learning opportunity and felt successful when it all came together in the end.

During their mini-launch, Team KAEY realized that their peers noticed the color scheme and design of their project, but they didn’t necessarily know how to make it work. They’re planning on figuring out ways to make the functions and instructions more clear next week when we showcase our robots to museum visitors. They understand that their project has to be accessible, especially for younger children, and want to make sure it's a project they can enjoy. 

Overall, it was a successful and creative second day at TechHive! 

Check out other fun designs that were brought to life:

TechHive Fall 2017: Day 1 // Welcome to TechHive!

Last week, we welcomed our new Fall 2017 cohort for the TechHive Internship! We have a group of 20 ambitious high schoolers ready to join us every Saturday from September 23 to December 2. They will spend the first few weeks learning skills related to programming, electronics, fabrication, and app development along with design essentials. After they have mastered these skills, they will work on a final project that culminates in an interactive museum exhibit for the Lawrence Hall of Science!

We started our first day by teaching the interns about the basics of prototyping and programming by designing a Robot Petting Zoo -- mechanical animals that are triggered to move, blink, and make sounds when they are “fed” by children visiting the zoo. 

This classic TechHive projects teaches:

  • The essentials of physical computing using MIT’s Scratch programming language and Hummingbird Duo microcontrollers.

  • The process of physical prototyping, collaboration, and design thinking.

  • That cardboard is the heart of TechHive!

After learning all the basics, we engaged in Design Sprints, an innovative yet structured activity geared to quickly sketch, prototype, launch, and learn about our cardboard creatures. These one hour long sessions force interns to prioritize the mechanics of their prototype over the creative aspects (for now).

They started out by discussing and sketching our their IDEA. They focused on LEDs (placement, color and blinking speed), sounds, and movement. They came up with some fun, easy to implement ideas

Next, they quickly had to PROTOTYPE their creation by coding, building, and troubleshooting their idea as a team.

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And the fun part was the MINI-LAUNCH where each group set up their “finished” prototype for other groups to try out.

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The most important part, however, is the LEARN aspect of the Design Sprint. Interns focused on giving each other constructive feedback that would allow them to iterate and improve their design for next week, where they will continue perfecting their creations to test them out on our younger museum visitors.

It was a fun and productive first day of our Fall 2017 Internship. We can’t wait to showcase everything our interns will be working on during the next 9 weeks!

TechHive Spring 2017: Day 1

After some brief introductions, we launched right into Day 1 with a Scratch/ Hummingbird tutorial. The goal was to get everyone up to speed on some basic engineering and programming concepts. We achieved this by putting on a Robot Petting Zoo. A Robot Petting Zoo is a concept that we've been developing in TechHive for the past several years. The Interns have 6 hours to design and program an animatronic, cardboard pet that will delight the young visitors of the Lawrence Hall of Science. It is a simple design challenge with endless possibility. 

The key skills that the interns learned from the Robot Petting Zoo were basic Scratch programming, introduction to microcontrollers (Hummingbird), introduction to servos, introduction to LEDs, rapid prototyping, critique principles, cardboard cutting techniques and simple mechanisms.

The TechHive interns will present their robot pets to the visitors of the Lawrence Hall of Science at 2pm next week. Wish them luck!

TechHive Winter 2017: Day 10!

Hey Everyone!
Here what you missed: In the last three weeks we wrapped applying our new skills to finish up Jamie, our one of a kind Explainer Robot!

  • Some of the skills we utilized:
  • Basic Bread Boarding
  • Iterative Design Process
  • Arduino (the coding language)
  • Humming Bird Arduino Board
  • Coding in Scratch
  • Coding basics in Arduino
  • Troubleshooting code
  • Prototyping
  • Application of Specialized Servo Motors
  • Countersinking
  • Basic WoodShop
  • Abstraction and PseudoCode

All in all it's been a successful and knowledge filled push towards are final goal and we got there as a team! Kudos to everyone involved and thank you again for all your support!

TechHive Winter 2017: Day 5

Today was all about the various stages of design.

Design → Build → Test→ Repeat! 

In the bottom row interns finished the last stages of our first group build. Attaching eyes, re-attaching them after they fell off, checking that wires were plugged in and skillfully handling all the minutiae that goes into making sure our robots work perfectly!

The top row engaged in a completely different part of the design process (the funnest part actually): Design! Groups worked together to redesign, an intern named, tool called "The Status Prism" that helps facilitators figure out how students are doing in their tasks from a quick glance. From learning the basics of breadboards and circuitry all the way through executing the their ideas with cardboard and wires interns got a very detailed look into design this week!

TechHive Winter 2017: Day 4

For the last few weeks interns have worked to develop their angler fish as they learn how to use variable, if/then statements and coding in scratch. This week we dove into the basics of breadboards. Learning how to read circuitry schimata as well as code in the language arduino, the group worked and troubleshooted thoroughly to reach their goals.

For the building portion, interns came close to finalizing their robots, finishing up the eyebrows to move onto creating the eye as well as attach the head to the body of the robot. Then finally moving onto wiring up their robots.

 

TechHive Winter 2017: Day 3

Last week, TechHive interns learned how to use variables, loops and If/ Then statements to bring their anger fish to life. This week, they got to put their new skills into practice as they iterated upon their angler designs. Interns created moving eyes for their fish, allowing them to experiment with emotive characters. Creating the illusion of emotion is central to making a successful animatronic character.

Additionally, interns assembled the eyebrow and eyelid mechanisms for their Explainer Bot. They also glued together the bodies and the platform for their Explainer Bot using an Acrylic Cement. Understanding how to work with acrylic will be essential when the interns begin to design their own motorized feature for their robot.

 

 

TechHive Winter 2017: Day 2

Today we began to assemble the Explainer Bot. While most of the Explainer Bot pieces were laser cut in advance, some components still needed to be drilled and counter sunk. For this, everyone was trained how to safely use a drill press. 

TechHive interns also got experience using soldering irons. The interns soldered leads onto the LED array that will become their Explainer Both's mouth. Knowing how to solder properly is a key skill when working with small electronics.

Half of the day was spent building the intern's programming and design skills through the creation of an animatronic angler fish. Interns made LEDs blink and Servos move using a Hummingbird Controller and Scratch programming. They also got a distance sensor to work using variable and loops in Scratch. These are the same tools they will use to make their animatronic Explainer Bots come to life.