New “Bread Board Games” for Science Week in Bunclody

The RoboSlam crew (Frank, Ted, Damon and Shannon) headed out to Bunclody Public Library in county Wexford this past Saturday to lead two workshops. We taught kids aged 7 and up to build small, hand-held video games that were designed by Frank. The event was part of Ireland’s annual Science Week.

The best part of our day in Bunclody? Definitely the gasps of amazement from workshop participants after they assembled their tiny computers and flipped the power switch “on!”

Many kids said “This is so addictive!” over and over as they played their new games. We even heard kids say, “This is better than my iPod”! They huddled up in hysterical positions with their new little gadgets, captivated and enthralled.

Our first workshop included kids who have coded before using Scratch, but the afternoon workshop was for complete beginners. Throughout the day, every participant left with a working computer video game!

Thanks to our sponsor, toaglas, and the fabulous librarians in Bunclody for supporting this project. Thanks also to our retired colleague from DIT, Charlie Pritchard (aka, off-duty Santa) for helping set this up.

To all the kids, who were 100% engaged and enthusiastic throughout the day, thanks for coming out and we hope to see you someday at another electronics event or at DIT! And to their parents–thanks for raising such sweet and interested kids!



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Engineering Your Future–a week of adventures in engineering at DIT

Engineering Your Future 2017 277

Between the end of classes and exams, the RoboSlam crew enjoys teaching Transition Year students who have curiosity about engineering in to learn about electronics and robot-building. Each year, we chip in as part of a week-long program hosted by our College and funded in part by Engineers Ireland.

This year, the RoboSlam staff led three days of programming. We hosted 40 teenagers — 34 women and 6 men–at our academic building on Kevin Street, in Dublin. One of the days featured a new activity, BioSlam, that Ted has recently designed.

Engineering Your Future 2017 197Below are photos of the two RoboSlam days. WorkPress shows them in reverse chronological order, which can be a bit frustrating, but you’ll see the excitement in the room during competition right from the start the you view the album below. (We will aim to upload Ted’s photos of BioSlam later.)

Students applied for this program through Engineers Ireland, and applications are accepted each year for slots in engineering programmes offered my many different Higher Education Institutions in Ireland.

Here’s the general schedule for the week, developed by Mark Deegan, our college’s engagement officer:

Monday 8th May – Introductions and Spaghetti Bridge Competition
09:00: DIT Bolton Street (use Kings’ Inns Street Entrance and come to Coffee Dock)
Hot lunch provided. There is a café on-site for small break.
16:30: Finish – DIT Bolton Street
Tuesday 9th May – RoboSlam
09:00: DIT Kevin Street (Gather in foyer of Kevin Street)
Hot lunch provided. There is a café on-site for small break.
16:30: Finish – DIT Kevin Street
Wednesday 10th May – Site Visits
09:00: DIT Bolton Street – Gather at Coffee Dock
Site visits to:
Siemens Diagnostic Healthcare, Swords
DIT Aviation Technology Centre, Dublin Airport
DIT Grangegorman New Campus
A packed lunch will be provided. There is a café on-site for small break.
16:30: Finish – DIT Grangegorman, please note that this day finishes in a separate location from where it started
Thursday 11th May – BioSlam
09:00: DIT Kevin Street – Gather in Foyer of Kevin Street
Hot lunch provided. There is a café on-site for small break.
16:30: Finish – DIT Kevin Street
Friday 12th May – RoboSlam Finals
09:00: DIT Kevin Street – Gather in Foyer of Kevin Street
Hot lunch provided. There is a café on-site for small break.
16:30: Finish – DIT Kevin Street
A public Google Map called “DIT – EYF Locations” shows the relevant locations we used.
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Template for laser cutting in Inkscape

An optional element of today’s workshop is to design some additional laser cut acrylic parts for your robot. To do so, you will need to draw the shapes you want in a vector drawing program called Inkscape (it’s free software, so you can download it at home too if you wish).

Before drawing your design, create a folder to store your drawings in. Create the folder inside the “C:/RoboSlam/” folder and call it “drawings” as shown below:

We have prepared a template file to get you started. It already has the page size set to the dimensions of the piece of acrylic your pieces will be cut from. Click on the link below to download the template file. Store it in the drawings folder you just created.

The template drawing file should now be in the folder “C:/RoboSlam/drawings/” as shown below:

Open Inkscape, click on the “File” menu and select “Open…”. Browse to “C:/RoboSlam/drawings/” and double click on the template drawing file to open it. You should see the drawing shown below:

If you’re not sure where to get started with Inkscape, try the basic tutorials under the Help menu. They explain how to create and modify different shapes. For the laser cutting, all you want are shapes drawing with thin black lines. The shapes should not be filled. We’ll suggest a few ideas to start with during the workshop.

As soon as you’ve begun modifying the drawing, you should save it to ensure you don’t lose any of your work. From the “File” menu, select “Save as…” and browse to the “C:/RoboSlam/drawings/” folder. Set the filename to your own name (no spaces) and leave the file type as the default (“Inkscape SVG”).

Once your file is saved, it should appear as shown below in the “C:/RoboSlam/drawings/” folder, except of course that it will be your name instead of mine!

We will explain during the workshop how we’re going to collect the files for laser cutting between now and Friday when you will add the pieces to your robot.

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More from Engineers Week 2017

Here’s a second set of photos from the RoboSlam DIT ran for Transition Year students from the Dublin area during the first week of March. What great fun it was!

This set of photos is presented in chronological order.

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Engineers Week 2017

A favorite day of the year for our RoboSlam team — the day we invite Transition Year (TY) students from all around Dublin to join us at Kevin Street DIT for the day to learn to build and code robots. The photos below show a lot of learning, a lot of concentrating, a lot of accomplishment, and many smiles. What a great group of teens to work with.

Thanks especially to the DIT students who have learned to tutor this event so well, to the teachers who helped get their students over to DIT for the day, and to the TY students who gave this their all. We hope to see you at DIT again, very soon!

The photo album below shows the last half of the event (March 9, 2017). We’ll upload photos from the start of the event next week…..


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Adults love robots, too….

_dsc1369Viewing the RoboSlam blog, you’ll see that reaching kids with hands-on engineering activities is our core mission. The RoboSlam volunteer team really enjoys giving kids their first taste of electronics engineering and robotics! Nevertheless, when we have enough time, we also like to teach a bit of computer programming — and we don’t always have the ‘man’power to do that when we’re working with a large group and we’re far outside of Dublin.

And so, for a recent workshop in County Monaghan, we invited adults to come and learn.

The 14 folks who joined the RoboSLam crew during Science Week at the Monaghan public library were all over 15 and, frankly, they seem to have every bit as much fun as the kids normally do!

After assembling our robots and breaking for a tasty lunch (provided by the event organizers–thanks!), the group took to coding and testing its robots. Learning to modify the robots’ behaviors was the central focus of this particular RoboSlam workshop, and getting the robots to behave as expected was a joy we’ll not soon forget!

We appreciated the chance for our undergraduate RoboSlam instructor team who live in the Monaghan area — Claragh, Padraic, and Michelle — to come along and teach. Watching them grow and thrive as teachers leave us grinning ear to ear!

Deirdriú McQuaid, the Senior Executive Librarian of Monaghan County Library Services invited our team and helped organize the event. We’re glad to have come along to be part of the fun!


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Creative Techfest’s RoboSlam at Google

roboslam-volunteer-team-at-googleThis year’s Creative Techfest was held at Google’s Dublin headquarters, and RoboSlam was there to to celebrate. Our team of volunteers–DIT staff and undergraduate engineering students alike–helped 18 school kids build their first robots using the Arduino Nano robot design developed by Ted Burke.

Ted has really streamlined this design, and the kids assembled the robots with relative ease, which left plenty of time for racing robots around the track we’d set up at Google.

The event was held on November 4, 2016 and was the RoboSlam’s second appearance at Creative Techfest.

_dsc1363The teacher of six of the students even stayed after to learn about programming, so that she could follow up with her students the next week, to teach them a bit of coding. She’d never programmed before, but was game to try. Gotta love that winning spirit!

Here’s to Megan Depinna of Gateway Youth Project–our hats go off to you! We love your passion for your work!