It began as a relaxing visit with my college buddy and his family. It became a glimpse into the technology-enabled future of worldwide collaboration in engineering.
The visit included a trip to the local robotics festival at South Orange Middle School in South Orange, N.J., with my friend and his sons, ages 8 and 10. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, as a technology enthusiast, I am always willing to learn what the next generation is thinking and doing with technology. This sure seemed like an interesting way to spend a lovely spring afternoon.
The show floor was packed with attendees and displays, including: JR First Lego teams (2nd and 3rd grade students), First Lego League (4th through 8th grade students), VEX Robotics (middle and high school students), and First Tech Challenge (high school students). Robot Revolution, which teaches elementary and middle school students to build and program real robots, was the sponsor.
I walked the show floor and admired the dexterity of these robots as young students controlled the motions using hand-held controls. The motions were quite complex and included picking up and dropping items. Lucas Ochoa, a sophomore at Livingston High School in Livingston, N.J., greeted me and asked if I had questions about his team’s project.
Lucas enthusiastically explained the design of the various components of the robot that he and his teammate, fellow sophomore Menglong Guo, helped build. This robot had omni-directional motion enabled by Mechanum wheels and an innovative suspension system, which gives it far greater flexibility and traction compared to a traditional wheel and tire. Lucas also showed me design concepts behind each component on his smartphone.
The materials used by the students are readily available online. Using video technology, students mentor other teams all over the world, Lucas said. And many of their robotics projects can be viewed at instructables.com. Check out the thermoelectric fan, powered by tealight candles.
Menglong Guo (left) and Lucas Ochoa, sophomores at Livingston High School, during a local robotics contest sponsored by Robot Revolution.
(Source: Mansur Hasib)
Lucas and Menglong have been in training for two years, while their team (usually 10 members) has existed for about five years now. Their project and enthusiasm for building robots were impressive. I was also very impressed with their desire to help and mentor others -- what a great way to learn collaboratively with people all over the world. It made me feel highly optimistic about the future that these innovative citizens of the world will build, the startups they will create, or the organizations they will help empower.
— Mansur Hasib has served in CIO/CISO and other leadership roles in the public, private, and education sectors.