Olin students get very excited about things very fast. Our community service organization, SeRV, had been talking to students about a charity event hosted by Vecna Technologies, a robotics and technology company in Cambridge. Vecna was hosting a fundraiser involving a robot race and a 5K (human) run. SeRV offered funding to those who wanted to participate in the robot race. As many of you may have seen from a number of my previous blog posts, I love Doctor Who. So my ears immediately perked up when a friend suggested that we build K-9, the Doctor's robot dog companion from the 51st century. With this project coming in on top of a middle-of-semester 20 credit workload, I was immediately nervous. I didn't feel that I had the time to do the things that I wanted to do near the end. But I was motivated to make this project succeed, because I wanted to build K9. After a slow start, spring break, and a bit too many long nights for comfort, we finally managed to scrap together a rideable, talking K9 with only 4 students and a $200 budget.
I'm not going to go into too many specifics on how we actually did it, because I'm still trying to process it. We found two humongous wheelchair motors, laser cut a bunch of scrap wood, and threw together a bunch of different sensors and systems to make our electrical system. Strapping that all together, we had a robot.
The day of the competition made it all worth it. After so many long hours working on it, we were finally at the end, and even though not everything ended up working the way we wanted to, we met our design goals. Number one: It looked like K9. Number two: It could complete the race. Number three: it was rideable. The best part was, by bringing it to a public event, we were able to validate our success and the work we put into it. Not only was our robot a robot, like any of the others at the Robot Race, but it was K9! A stream of parents who watched Doctor Who when they were younger insisted they get pictures of their children riding our robot. Even people who weren't fans of Doctor Who loved what we did, because our robot had character, which made it loads of fun. Multiple media outlets came and talked to us about what inspired us to participate. "We really just wanted to build K9" was the usual response.
I am addicted to projects. If I am inspired, I will start a project surrounding my inspiration. There are lots of awesome things that happen here, just because students get inspired to do fun things. If someone mentions something interesting to me, I will be dying to help them. It's a big problem, because I know sometimes that I can't take on all the things that I want to do. If Oliners don't have the time to do something they are passionate about, then they will physically make that time available, and that's exactly what I did. What comes out of that time is amazing, but it definitely comes with a cost. I definitely got less sleep that I've wanted to, but I know that I've made something really cool. Taking on this project was definitely pushing my time and stress limit this semester, but it was definitely worth it, because I now have a new pet robotic dog in my room, and I've made one more thing that has made me feel like I've accomplished something awesome.