This past week, Dr. Tianming Liu hosted a STEM summer camp for kids. As I understand it, they spent most of their time off in Driftmier playing with LEGO Mindstorms. For the last two days, however, they went on field trips, and Dr. Li volunteered our lab to be one of the destinations. So, on Thursday, BSAIL was overrun with rambunctious children. This was a slight divergence from the way we typically operate.

We put together an extensive program of demos and interactive exhibits beforehand. Most lab members pitched in to demonstrate their research. We started off at Hort Farm where Rui demonstrated the Watson phenotyping robot and I flew the Matrice 100.

Rui demonstrating the Watson controls.
Rui demonstrating the control system for Watson.
Watson in the field
The Watson robot in the field.

I had gone to the farm a few days before to configure a flight plan that would map a small field by the entrance. Later on, I used the images I had collected combined with the PPK GPS data to create an orthomosaic of the field. The kids were intrigued by the drone, but were only interested in the resulting data insofar as they could see themselves at the side of the field, gazing upwards.

Orthophoto collected during the demo.
The orthophoto produced during the demo.

For this demo, I took the opportunity to test our newest expensive toy, the Emlid Reach RS2. It’s actually so new that we don’t have a tripod for it yet, so I just set it on the roof of my car. At least I remembered to take it off before I drove away.

Reach RS2
The RTK base station in action.

When I got back to the lab, I discovered that Rui had used the 3D printer to make little plastic airplanes that you could launch with a rubber band. These were hugely popular. I spent most of the rest of the day being hit in the back with these things.

Rui demonstrating his airplane toy
Rui demonstrating how to use the airplane toys.

Yuxuan also took the opportunity to demonstrate his soft gripper design, showing how it could lift an assortment of random objects.

Yuxuan demonstrating the soft gripper.
Yuxuan demonstrating the soft gripper.

At the end of the day, there was a little awards ceremony where all the children got recognized for the unique aspects of the robots they had made in the previous days.

Jacob receiving an award.
I can’t remember what Jacob’s award was for, but it clearly wasn’t for looking at the camera.

I’ve discovered that children are a double-edged sword: they’re easily bored, but also easily impressed. I’m not sure if what I did really had an impact or not, but maybe it was good for me to be forced to demo my work to the general public. I always forget that lay people find my mundane research tasks incredibly exciting.

Group photo of summer camp participants.
A group photo of all the summer camp participants.

You can see all the pictures from the day below:



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