Dispatches from FIRST Robotics Championship

If you can't go to FIRST, FIRST comes to you

1 min read
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/jzgUSNZIHRE&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]

For those of us who couldn't make it to the FIRST finals in Atlanta this week, National Instruments is posting some cool videos straight from the competition floor. Todd, a NI staff engineer, is doing "man on the street" interviews with the teams, talking about their robots, strategies, and ... costumes. Check out his interview with the Team FTC 7 Stormtrooper guy above. NI will be posting more videos tomorrow and Saturday.

NI is also announcing today that registrations are open for the Moonbots: Google Lunar X Prize LEGO Mindstorms Challenge. From the release:

The MoonBots Challenge is an exciting contest that challenges teams of kids (age 13 and up) and adult mentors to learn about robotics, the Moon, and space exploration by designing and constructing a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot that performs simulated lunar missions similar to those required to win the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE. Six-member teams are engaged in hands-on learning experiences, helping to inspire today’s kids to become tomorrow’s innovators and creative problem solvers who explore futures in science and engineering. The MoonBots Challenge is free and open to teams across the globe.

For more information, go to http://www.moonbots.organd watch the video below, an interview with Steven Canvin from LEGO about the competition:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/v/-SqKFJOla3A&hl=en_US&fs=1& expand=1]
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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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