March Robots: Technical Challenges are No Obstacle!

This gallery contains 4 photos.

This month’s robot builders were Leo and dad, Ben, and Raphael.  When you start out in software development and robotics you need to be prepared for challenges.  This weekend we had our fair share!  Power problems, WiFi problems and remote … Continue reading

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Google Voice Kit Experimentation Setup

I finally got some serious shed time today (first day this year!).  I put together the setup below:

Google AIY Prototyping Setup

This takes the Google AIY Voice Kit out of its cardboard box.  I soldered pins onto the voice hat, which will allow me to connect (and hence voice-control) a number of things such as lights and servo motors.  The ultimate aim is to voice-control a robot built by a friend’s daughter (who is 10 and incredibly creative in digital making).

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Tomorrow’s Engineers Robotics Challenge

This week I had the pleasure of judging the Tomorrow’s Engineers Robotics Challenge. This event saw 12 schools compete in a freezing cold RAF Museum in Hendon to win a place at the finals at the Big Bang Fair in March.

All the robots were built using the same Lego Mindstorms kit.  There were two key challenges.  In the speed test, the robots had to run along a 4m track.  In the robotics challenge students could use a variety of techniques to navigate around the board and pick up objects.  Students were also assessed on their robot’s design and programming  and their process and teamwork.  Some ingenious mechanical contraptions were created to grab, pinch and lift and some clever coding used to get the robots to behave.  All-in-all it was encouraging to see some real engineering talent coming from this great initiative.

Congratulations to Reading Girls School and Camden School for Girls for qualifying for the finals in March.

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February robotics sessions

Over 7 consecutive days, 8 students arrived for the Robotics Half Term Week and Robotics Weekend.  We had:

  • a new slowest robot,
  • the two tiniest robots ever with their ingenious vertical battery design,
  • a couple of colourful, spray-painted specimens,
  • a gin-and-tonic carrying robot
  • a beautifully simple (and easy to cut!) design
  • dancing robots
  • plenty of comical driving

I hope to post some videos soon, but here are a few pictures.

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Turing House CoderDojo

On Feb 3rd I took a few robot arms along to the Turing House CoderDojo in Teddington.  There were 66 children undertaking a variety of programming activities.  My table of 4 students soon got their robots picking up lego figures and depositing them in odd places.  Take a look at the event blog here.

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Records old, records new, robots borrowed, robots, er, pink

Here are the latest students from my Introduction to Robotics course.


Rachel, Maxie, Ali, Joe

Unfortunately, due to a still unexplained electronic failure, Joe’s robot didn’t make it to the competition.  Ali made a kind offer, which I think he now regrets, to lend Joe his robot for the race.  With some unbelievable driving skills, Joe guided Ali’s skillfully-crafted vehicle around the course in a record 22 seconds, shaving an incredible 20 seconds off the previous fastest time.  I still can’t quite believe it!  Ali himself managed 37 and 42 seconds, so the three fastest times ever recorded have all been with Ali’s speed machine!  Beat that!

If there was a prize for cutest robot, Rachel and Maxie would certainly win.  Adorned with its pink wings, this tiny robot has been added to my “not to be recycled” collection.


Flaming Turtle




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Ham CoderDojo

I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Ham CoderDojo, which took place last weekend at Kingston University.  Peter Wolf and the team have done an amazing job building this monthly event up over the past 3 years.  Eighty-seven (yes 87!) kids arrived to learn how to code and make a variety of digital devices.  I’m looking forward to next month’s event.

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