Revisiting Robots on Ice 3.0
Check how Bittle performed on ice.
I visited an unique event last weekend, Robots on Ice. This event, already in its third annual edition, attempts to marry the goals of promoting ice skating, and promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) by showcasing robots on ice. A great media overview of the event, and its star attractions can be found here. Rather than repeating what the media article describes, I will provide my impressions as a first time participant.
This event was very well organized, thanks to Sarah Feldman, CEO of Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association, and the chief organizer of the event. I found that a ice skating rink is a great venue to demo robots.
Robots look great on ice because of the combination of ambience and reflections. An ice skating rink is sufficiently big for robots to move around, and not too big to keep them far way from the audience. Most importantly, ice provides an interesting and challenging surface for robots. On one hand, it is smooth and offers less pitfalls for robots to stumble on. On the other hand ice is slippery, and provides an extra challenge for robot engineers and enthusiasts to operate their robots.
Bittle on Ice
We took our Bittle robots to perform on ice. It was our first time, and we were initially very skeptical of Bittle’s ability to walk on ice. We also didn’t have any opprtunity to practice, this was our first time operating Bittle on any icy surface. We have taken Bittle to hiking trails and in wet surfaces before, but this adventure was clearly different.
To our amazement, Bittle performed extremely well. Once we gained confidence to operate Bittle on ice, we could take Bittle to the middle of the skating rink. We were able to make Bittle walk, bounce, do pushups, and even try backflips. Bittle excelled in each department, and returned without any damage to either its body or its servo motors.
We have posted a couple of videos on our Twitter handle. Here is Bittle walking on ice with other robots.
And our most viral video… Bittle bouncing on ice was seen and appreciated by many.
While we thoroughly enjoyed this event and hope we can participate in next years event, our hope is far beyond that. We hope that this unique concept can be taken to other regions. Ice skating rinks clearly need more financial support than ice skaters can afford to provide. Making kids excited about robots and STEM skills is clearly very important and valuable for the future. The combination of robots and ice is a splendid blend… and can compliment and enhance the value of both ice skating and robotics. Congratulations to the organizers of Robots On Ice for making this event so popular. Best wishes to them, and hope such events can be replicated.