The world of Big Data brings images of a future in which Artificial Intelligence is busy doing all the hard stuff for us. But what are people actually doing with robots right now?
We found out by talking with Julia Kagiliery, a sophomore TIPster from Florida who’s involved in a robotics competition called Botball.
Tell us about your experience with robotics. What is Botball?
Botball is an international competition in robotics for middle and high schools across the world. The game is an obstacle course with different objects that must be sorted or moved to score point. Each team has two robots that they must build and program, then give oral reports on.
After presentations and documentation about the teams and their robots, the competition begins with a seeding round and then goes into a double elimination. Each team must score as many point as they can in two minutes. Every robot must be equipped with a light sensor to begin and may not be touched once the round begins.
My work in robotics began in seventh grade when I joined the team at my science teacher’s request. I didn’t know what to expect but I quickly began designing robots and strategizing the quickest and most efficient ways to score points.
My first two years on a team, I was the only girl on my team and the least experienced. Being in this position, I learned that I had to speak up, stand strong in my convictions, and believe in myself and my ideas. I love competing because it manifests all the hard work that is put into these bots. My team and I will spend around six weeks before school, during our lunch period, and during free periods working on our bots.
What drives you to participate in robotics?
I joined the team because of my seventh-grade science teacher. He was my favorite teacher, and I loved his class, so when he asked me to join the team I was very excited.
For me, robotics has always been about doing the unconventional. That’s what robotics is about: the unconventional. It’s hard work and crazy ideas and a couple of sensors that are changing our lives. I love working with my friends and teammates and how it bring us closer together.
There’s never one way to compete. Each robot is unique and there is so many ways to program and design. Every problem that arises is different and requires consideration of all components. For example, if the degrees of a turn are not consistent between runs, then there are a million different possibilities why. It could be that the weight distribution shifted or the battery is too low or the tire traction has been compromised or so many other things. You must be able to analyze every possibility and make a decision.
How do you think robotics and other kinds of automation will change our society?
I think that robotics is changing our future at a pace that is incomprehensible. We have achieved so much in the past fifty years that it’s unreal. We have robots doing surgery and cars that drive themselves.
Robotics make the world a more interactive, exciting, and accessible place for everyone. It allows a single person to calculate, process, and analyze the data that would have taken weeks before. Robotics has, in simple terms, made life better.
Though it’s impossible to imagine all of the possibilities of robotics in the future, robotics is changing the world now. It’s everywhere. Our phones are only getting faster, our TVs thinner, and even our movie effects are getting better. It absolutely amazing how robotics impacts our lives, and everyday I am reminded of how lucky I am to be apart of the future.
What advice do you have for other TIPsters who want to get involved in robotics?
My advice to anyone who wants to get involved in robotics is to just try it.
There is a really big stereotype about who joins the robotics team, but that should never hold you back. You don’t need to be a “nerd.” I’m not. I’m a varsity athlete, I was not experienced, and I had no desire to get involved in robotics until I just did it.
You never know if you’re going to enjoy something unless you try. Jump in, try it, you never know. Always remember, you bring unique and different ideas to every situation, and that applies to robotics! Just go for it; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.