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Parade of robots concludes summer workshop


Published July 18, 2013

There were robots, all right, but one wore a pink heart. Another took the popular Minecraft computer game as its inspiration, with its creator decked out as a “Creeper.”  Still another featured a glowing, purple “Tower of Terror,” a pink flower perched at the top.

Not an R2-D2 or C-3PO to be found.

And that was the point for the local elementary school children who took part in ARTY, the Art, Robotics & Technology for Youth workshop held last week at Canisius College.

The workshop, part of the community engagement program of UB’s Techne Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies, was designed to provide an opportunity for children ages 9 to 12 to learn about and experiment with robot art projects, while discovering the possibilities of future careers in math, engineering and computer science.

What could be cooler than spending part of your summer vacation building your own special robot?

“By integrating the arts within a curriculum of basic computer programming, experimentation, circuitry and design, the workshop engaged many children and made robotics accessible to those with diverse interests and talents,” says Sara Bay-Cheng, UB professor of theatre and dance and director of the Techne Institute.

The workshop was created and administered by Bay-Cheng, who teaches digital media and performance at UB. Debra Burhans, associate professor of computer science at Canisius, led the workshop; participants were instructed in computer programming and robot design by UB media study and electrical engineering students, as well as computer science students at Canisius.

Guest artists also attended the sessions, held July 8-12 in the Robotics Lab at Canisius, demonstrating the newest advances in robot technology to help the students imagine the possibilities for their own future creations, including their final project. For that final projects, students had to create and program a unique working robot, and design a performance and presentation.

The workshop concluded on July 12 with a “Parade of Robots” representing workshop participants’ final projects.