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“A wise robot once said to me through Serial.println- that robots teach us about ourselves.”

Robot Party Hangout

After the last Robot Party, I received an email from a FLL coach. Here is a snippet of her email:

“But when I looked at it [Robot Party], I was concerned with all of the video connections from people that the girls might see some guy doing something inappropriate (the girls are 12-13), so to be safe we disconnected [from the stream] right away and I had them delete the Tweet until I could look into things more.”

The aim of the Robot Party is to try to get more people involved with robotics, by sharing their robots with everyone.

I have mentored FIRST for 4 years, this really made me sad, since I’m the reason now for getting a team of FLL girls scared about robotics, exactly the opposite of what I aimed to do. :(

As a little bit of background, FIRST is an international robotics program that has three main stages: FLL (FIRST Lego League), FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) and FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition). It’s designed to be a process to allow you to follow robotics (or a STEM related field) up until university. It’s all about getting young people inspired about science!

In order to explain details about the Robot Party in the simplest means possible, here are answers to questions that you may be wondering about.

What is the Robot Party?
The Robot Party is a weekly Google+ hangout about robotics, where we discuss and show our robots. It is mirrored to Ustream so others can watch it if they are not in the hangout. The Robot Party is run by RobotGrrl. The intended audience for the Robot Party is anyone interested in robotics!

Who hangs out in the Robot Party?
Anyone in my circles on Google+. It’s not open to the entire internet, however it is open to everyone who adds me on Google+. We don’t pre-interview anyone for the party. The party is spontaneous and improvised.

What happens if something inappropriate is shown on someone’s camera in the Robot Party?

First, let me explain how unlikely this would be.

1) The hobby robotics community is small, and everyone knows everyone in some form. Some of them we even know in real life, and it is quite the honour (like Carlos)!

2) Everyone in the hangout is focussed on the robots. That is why they went through the effort to get their webcam and mic set up, along with their robot. We all breathe, eat, sleep robotics.

3) Google+ is not anonymous in the same way Chat Roulette is. There is a Google account tied to the Google+ profile that is accountable for when events are reported.

Second, this is the process that would happen if this unlikely event would occur:
1. The stream video and audio would not be focussed on the Google+ Hangout
2. We would use the “Report Abuse Tool” on the person, then add them to the “Block” circle
3. After the person has left the hangout, the video and audio stream would resume to normal

Third, if something like this were to happen, it would only be on the screen for a minimal amount of time. If you are watching and you feel uncomfortable, you always have the ability to close out of the window.

To sum up:
It’s tricky to predict what people could do. However, that is no reason to not have a Robot Party. The Robot Party is supposed to be unscripted, spontaneous, and fun. It has been a lot of fun (since switching to the Google+ Hangout format) and will continue to be!

I’m really a big fan of Google+ Hangouts. It is an accessible way to interact with the friends that we meet through the internet. In fact, here is an illustration that Cliff Roth drew of my robots in a hangout (while I was writing this post, which took a very long time):

RoboBrrdMANOISpaceCliff

There is a fantastic article by Phillip Torrone on Make about the new hangouts.

He helps organize the Adafruit Show & Tell with Ladyada, where a group of 10 makers get to show off their creations. Their hangouts have yet to have any “inappropriate” issues, rather they are quite awesome. They are a huge inspiration for the Robot Party too.

Robotics is an area of science that is not dominated by women. As such, there will be more guys in the field, and thus in the Robot Party. Just because there are guys in the hangout, does not mean that there will be inappropriate things that will happen. I’m not too sure where this assumption has arisen from, but it has to stop.

With all this said, the Robot Parties are screen recorded, however they do not necessarily represent the real live thing (in fact, my microphone is not recorded because it gets the echo from the actual audio). There will be a mashup video coming soon of the three most recent Robot Parties.

We really hope that the Robot Party will continue to live long and prosper. Nothing bad has happened yet, but really fun things have happened, and that is definitely something to celebrate, instead of worrying about the slim chance scenarios.

I apologize if I did scare anyone from robotics because of the Robot Party. Robotics is a fantastic area of science to continue to pursue.

If you are excited about robotics and want to join the next Robot Party, watch for a hangout on my stream on Thursdays at 8PM ET, or tune in via the Ustream mirror! This weeks theme will be dancing robots, so I hope you and your robots can join us! MANOI will be waiting with its dancing feet!

4 CommentsLeave a Comment


  • FLL Coach

    5 months ago

    Erin – Thank you for addressing my concerns. You absolutely did NOT scare these girls off of robotics. They just went back to happily building their new robot when I told them I should look into the robot party before they watched it.

  • ladyada

    5 months ago

    hi FLL coach, i’m limor fried. robotgirl mention me in the post. i’m an engineer and run adafruit industries, each week i do a live engineering chat and with the launch of google+ i now do a weekly show-and-tell where people share their electronics projects with each other. we’ve done this for 2 years and never had a problem, google hangouts are new but we’ve been doing these from the start, and again, no problems. there are laws and tools to deal with problems if they happen. it’s not really fair to punish robotgirl (or your robot team) for things that haven’t happened and may not :)

    i really hope you encourage robotgirl to continue what she is doing, she inspires many many people including myself.

    if you are really concerned about what “could” happen you can always watch recorded versions of the hangouts or videos, but i think kids are smart and can tell the difference between what robotgirl is doing and when or if someone is trying to be disruptive – that’s where you come in as a mentor/parent/teacher.

    everyone knows the world needs more scientists and engineers, the only way to get there is to celebrate and support people like robotgirl and yourself :)

    perhaps you could be a guest on her next hangout and talk about running a FIRST robotics team with her.

    any way – if you’d like to chat directly you can email me as well, support@adafruit.com

    -limor

  • FLL Coach

    5 months ago

    We’ll definitely check out the videos of the streams. I didn’t intend to make Robotgrrl feel awkward or discourage her at all!

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    2 months ago

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