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Inspiring Future Robot Builders at DARPA Robotics Challenge

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We had an amazing Saturday thanks to a tip from one of Theo’s classmate’s mom.  There was a robot competition happening last Friday and Saturday between International teams with $3.5 million in prize money. The Robotics Challenge is one that has a real impact beyond the competition itself. The competition is really about improving technology in disaster relief response situations using robotics; the competition merely funds the research and innovation.

It’s a free event for the general public. You not only get to watch the robot teams compete in a series of tasks, but there are a number of booths that let you participate in hands-on demonstrations using robotic technologies. It’s a really fun experience for the kids and adults too.

We spent about three hours at the event, which was enough time to see one round of competition and fortunately for us we did see the First Place winner: Team KAIST. The challenges included walking out of a vehicle, opening a door, turning a wheel, cutting open a wall, removing tools from a shelf and finally walking up stairs. It was funny watching the audience react to each successful task with applause. It was like a nerdy sport competition. That’s not to say it was a bad thing, it was just kind of hilarious having a stadium full of people cheering on robots. We loved it.

The booths were interesting too. Our boys had opportunities to use a robotic hand to do tasks similar to what the competition robots did. They also were given robot licenses and controlled robots using game controllers. There were also demonstrations featuring some advanced robots from NASA, JPL, and many others in the robotics industry.

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Theo has a real love for robots and both boys are taking a robot LEGO programming class for summer school. They came away with more excitement about robots and robotics as a possible choice in their careers. Of course at 9 years old, decisions are likely to change. What’s important though is they were each inspired and wanted to know more about what it takes to become a robot engineer.

Thanks DARPA for providing such a great event and we are sure to attend next year too!

I’ll leave you with this a video someone put together using footage from DARPA of robots falling. Unfortunately, the version with a WWE wrestling voiceover was removed by the copyright owners… You’re welcome.