Underwater Robots for STEM Outreach

seafox1I have always enjoyed STEM outreach, be it talking about the UAV research I have been involved with at the Ladies Luncheon Club (average age of ~65) or showing how you can use node.js to control a Parrot AR drone to a group of hormonal teenagers.

Besides an interest in flying things I have always had a weak spot for maritime vehicles, particularly submarines. (For some reason land vehicles never really interested me). Triggered by the OpenROV kickstarter and, more recently, by listening to The Engineering Commons episode on Underwater Robots with Bill Porter, I have been looking for opportunities to learn more about them or even build them. As my own spare time has pretty much disappeared for various reasons, doing this as part of my STEM Ambassador work seemed a great idea.

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Friendly Drones

convdronesThere is so much polemic surrounding the use of drones these days that it can get frustrating for somebody who also sees the positive contributions the technology can make. Never mind the great potential unmanned technology has for driving innovation and getting youngsters interested in STEM (something that is severely needed).

Of course there are lots of questions to be raised about the use of unmanned systems (and remotely piloted aircraft in particular) in military conflict. These topics have been, and still are, debated at length in the media, wikipedia, and blogs such as DroneWarsUK. Instead, like Drones For Good, I will focus on some of the positive projects the technology has enabled in the humanitarian, environmental, and social space. I am not the only one who would welcome more balanced coverage here.

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RLabs, Creating Hope

Today I was lucky enough to attend a seminar by Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs. I had never heard of either before but my interest was sparked by the mention of ICT4D (something I have been into for a while) and a cursory browse on the website.

Organized by the kind folks of the Global South Forum it was well worth attending. From the RLabs website:

Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) is a global movement and registered Social Enterprise that provides innovative solutions to address various complex problems. It creates an environment where people are empowered to make a difference in the lives of others. The RLabs “main hub” is in Athlone, Cape Town but have activity in the United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and Central Africa with a goal of reaching all continents by 2012.

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