Custom‐designed, human‐form dancing bot stands nearly 5-feet tall and is geared for action with a TETRIX frame and NXT brain. (And it's programmed in LabVIEW).
Not even developers of the TETRIX® building system used in the FIRST Tech Challenge knew its robustness until presented with an unexpected, last-minute task – build a human-form robot that would appear on stage with Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.
Pitsco Education Research and Design Manager Paul Uttley, who helped design TETRIX, was presented the challenge just two weeks prior to the 2011 FIRST World Championship (FWC) held in late April at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri.
True to the spirit of FIRST competitors who build TETRIX robots for competition, Uttley rose to the occasion and created Mr. Robot, who shuffled onto the stage between Will.i.am and FIRST Founder Dean Kamen during the feature event at the FWC. That appearance has led to Mr. Robot being featured in the ABC-TV special, “I Am First: Science is Rock ’n Roll,” which aired in August.
Mr. Robot, at five feet tall and outfitted with LED lighting, track feet, working joints, and some smooth dance moves, was a hit with the audience as he intently focused on the verbal exchanges between Kamen and Will.i.am. He even broke out in impromptu dances during the performance.
The robot was made from Pitsco’s TETRIX building system, LEGO® Education NXT Intelligent Brick (programmable controller) and related parts, as well as LED lighting. The robot was programmed using LabVIEW software from National Instruments. TETRIX Product Manager Tony Allen said Mr.Robot is an example of the platform’s potential.
“The thing we really hang our hats on with TETRIX is the durability, the robustness, and the longevity,” Allen said. “We want to give teachers a long-term solution that enables their students to learn about engineering, design, and building from this platform. This was a great opportunity to really show how diverse students can be with TETRIX.”
The TETRIX building system is used in both the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition. LEGO Education robotics platforms are used in all four of FIRST divisions from Jr. FIRST LEGO League through FIRST Robotics Challenge.
Uttley did his homework on the Black Eyed Peas immediately after accepting the challenge to build a robot worthy of sharing the stage with Will.i.am. “The Black Eyed Peas are techno. They’re very much into futuristic ways to make music. There’s a lot of synthesizing, a lot of lighting effects in their shows. This robot had to have lighting and bling and other things going on.”
After Will.i.am watched Uttley demonstrate the robot during rehearsals, he was eager to play with it. “He just wanted to get his hands on the controls,” Uttley said. “He is incredibly smart and very technical. He knows about robotics in general. I just gave him a quick review of what the buttons do. He took the controls and made the thing go.”
Mr. Robot serves as an inspiration for what’s possible when builders get their creative juices flowing.
“We’re showing kids what they can do with these parts,” Uttley explained. “Right now, when they participate in FIRST, they’re required by the rules to fit within a certain space. Hopefully this will show them other things that they can do and other forms they can build with TETRIX.”