Story and photos by Michaela Boneva |
MANALAPAN – New Jersey’s annual Makers Day on Saturday gathered more than 30 groups displaying their creativity at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters. Makers Day is a statewide movement that celebrates the culture of creating and making things and offers educational opportunities and a variety of hands-on experiences, from solving Rubik’s Cubes to learning about children’s books with Rumson author Annie Silvestro, percussion music or even chickens.
Two 3-D printers were hard at work in the back of the room, developing figures from brightly colored spools. Pre-made objects, including various animal figures and intricate faces, surrounded the printers and a crowd of people continually swarmed the table, with little kids insistently asking, “can I make something, please?”
However, a recurring theme at this year’s fair was robots. Three different robotics groups from Monmouth County set up tables at the library and let their robots wander around throughout the day.
Manasquan High School’s Academy of Engineering robotics team, Cyber Blue, had an entire room near the back entrance dedicated to their work. In the center of the room a robot playing field housed a robot larger than a cat inside the fenced area. Controlled with a typical Xbox controller, the team allowed visitors to try out the robot for themselves. Kids were delighted and parents were impressed, even as their children steered the robot into the fence.
The Manasquan team recently competed for the second year in the First Tech Challenge (FTC), a competition that challenged them to create a robot that can complete various tasks. This year the tasks involved picking up and stacking blocks, making a figure stand up and balancing on a board. Though the team did not move onto the next round in the competition, they earned points for having their robot be autonomous for a few minutes; a sensor on the robot allowed it to move without being controlled for a short time.
Plum Crazy Robotics, another group at the event, aims to bring robotics skills and experience to more people. Their table was set up on the main floor of the fair, along with a miniature soccer field equipped with tiny nets and a tennis ball. The “players” were small Makeblock robots controlled by tablets that were eagerly passed around to the kids surrounding the field. A crowd quickly formed around the area, with some kids coming back for a second or third turn.
Plum Crazy Robotics offers classes throughout the school year and over the summer at an office in Marlboro for anyone interested in learning about coding and engineering. While the classes are mainly made up of children ages 6 to 12, anyone age 4 and older, including adults, is welcome. The classes cover various robotics skills, including programming and electronics and each student gets to work on each par t, whether it be coding or putting together a robot from scratch. Plum Crazy Robotics is currently working on opening a second location in Eatontown.
A third robotics group at the fair was Rogue Robotics, a team that used to be a part of High Technology High School in Lincroft but now exists independently of the school.
The several High Tech students and one Biotech student displayed their underwater robot at Makers Day. While they were not able to truly test their robot at the library – it was larger than 1 cubic foot in size – they still allowed people to use its Xbox controller to move the motors that would propel the robot under water. The machine is equipped with multiple propellers across all sides that let it move in various directions under water. It also has two different cameras mounted to its front for “topside” or above-the-water viewing while it’s maneuvered.
Rogue Robotics plans on competing in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) ROV (remotely operated vehicles) competition in May of this year. They’ve been working on this underwater robot since October 2017 and have started meeting four times a week to do so. Similar to the First Tech competition, MATE ROV has various tasks the robot must be able to complete that fall under the theme of earthquakes, aircraft and energy. The tasks this year are to inflate a lift bag to bring heavy objects to the surface, to deploy and release an ocean bottom seismometer and to install a turbine array underwater.
Last summer, Rogue Robotics won $1,000 for a different under water robot, a low- cost ROV that can detect pollution in bodies of water. Rogue Robotics hopes to advance to the international MATE ROV competition in June.
This article was first published in the March 15-22, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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