Robert the Robot

Looking back on the idea of making a robot for our science class, I recall feeling a lot of worry and doubt. In fact, when Professor Sonek handed us the boxes of lego robot parts on friday, the 24th of january, and announced we would be programming them, I could not help but laugh and think that my work would result in complete and utter failure. As an English and French major, anything that involves science or numbers or building things is very frightening to me. However, despite all of my doubt, Cassie Hannon and I’s robot was not at all a failure, but rather, a success! Of course we ran into some problems along the way (which I will discuss later in this post), but overall I was quite impressed with our creation and with my enjoyment of the project.


Meet Robert:

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Our task was to first, build the robot from the lego parts (which I learned were of Danish origin), and then to make it move forwards, backwards, and in a circle. Although we had visual instructions on the computer in front of us for the assembly of Robert, it proved to be a lot harder than it looked. Luckily, I’m one that doesn’t get frustrated too easily, so after a lot of laughing and re-strating the process, Cassie and I had properly assembled Robert and became proud parents of our little robot.

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After taking many pictures and staring lovingly at our little Robert, it was time to program him. For this, we were introduced to a program called LabView. When I realized we would have to control our robot via a computer program, I again lost all hope. However, the program proved to be easier than I had thought. Following the professors instructions, we had created a control panel for Robert, which also looked much simpler than I thought it would.

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As long as we carefully followed the instructions and did not rush, it all made a lot of sense and proved to be effective. When it got to the final step, connecting our robot to LabView, we began to run into some problems. Although we had correctly assembled Robert and followed Professor Sonek’s instructions on LabView, our robot would not connect to LabView. We tried again and again (unsuccessfully) to find a bluetooth connection between Robert and LabView, even with the help of Professor S! We entered various “passcodes” until we found one that connected us to what we thought was Robert. Boy, where we wrong. We had actually connected to the group in front of us’ robot. Although that was frustrating, it was humorous as well. Finally after disconnecting and reconnecting we had connected Robert and LabView! It was, as Borat would say, a great success!!

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After a bit of celebration (perhaps too loudly), Cassie and I set off to figure out how to get Robert to move. We got him to move forward and back, and with the help of the group in front of us, we got him to turn around in a circle (which was the assignment). I had successfully survived our first in class activity and I felt proud. Apparently Robert did, too, because he would not stop spinning around….Here’s the video:



Overall, I was quite impressed with this assignment and surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I look forward to learning more about programming Robert…especially because there is apparently much more we can make our Robot do aside from move in a straight line or a circle.

If you’d like to check out my partner’s blog, you can find her here:

Blog post #1-Nation’s Energy Grid

America’s power grid is a complex system used to deliver electricity to citizens across the nation. The first commercial power grid was called The Pearl Street Station, and was created by Thomas Edison in Manhattan in 1882. Over the years, the grid has proved to be a successful source of energy for out nation. The power grid delivers four hundred billion dollars of electricity yearly through the course of 2.7 million miles of transmission lines. Moreover,  the grid itself consists of thee smaller grids: Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection and Texas Interconnection.How it works is through an interconnected system of power plants and transformers connected by over 450,000 miles of transmissions lines. First, power is created at power plants and then sent to substations via the transmission lines. Then, a smaller, local system of low-voltage transmissions lines delivers it to each individual customer.

how it works!

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Along with the obvious successes or benefits to the power grid, some other benefits include the ability of the grid to accept any form of power-water, wind, etc. Also, the network distribution creates lower cost production, which is certainly a good thing for customers.  In other words, this interconnected network allows access to bulk energy by receiving power from different sources. For example,  during high water seasons cheap hydro power may be produced, but in low water seasons, cheap power may be produced by wind, which allows different regions to receive assistance from one another during difficult times.

While the power grid has been a successful machine for america, there are also many downsides to it’s infrastructure. First, because of the interconnectedness of the grid, power outages can often lead to blackouts across more than one region. As a result, the grid becomes less reliable and people will search for new means of acquiring energy. Additionally,  it’s infrastructure is aging rapidly and desperately needs an upgrade in order to function properly. We need to look into more investments in order to decrease disruptions in service ,due to having components that have different age, capacity, and conditions, as well as meet the demands of our rapidly growing population and it’s demands for energy.  Thus, the power grid is becoming threatened as people are searching for their own ways to create electricity. Companies such as google and apple have begun to develop solar farms to get their electricity. Verizon is spending $100 million to power offices and call centers via solar panels and fuel cells. Hospitals, universities, and other big companies are rapidly installing fuel cells that get electricity through a chemical reaction. Clearly, if the power grid does not undergo major change, the US will find other ways of getting more reliable and cheaper electricity as the demand for it grows.

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There has been quite a bit of research done on how to improve the grid system. An emerging advance in the system is the smart grid! In 2009, President Obama give $4.5 billion of the stimulus package to be put toward the building of the smart grid, but billions more have gone towards renewable energy such as solar energy. There is quite obviously hope for the smart grid if the US is willing to pay the extra price at the beginning.

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Unlike existing grids, which are used to carry power from a few central generators to many consumers, the smart grid will use ” two-way flows of electricity and information to create an automated and distributed advanced energy delivery network.” Another big difference is that the physical infrastructure would be replaced with a digital one, something that will cost a lot of money. However, in the long run a smart grid would help customers to receive cheaper, greener, less intrusive, more reliable and higher quality power from the grid.

Personally, I feel that more money and time should be invested in renewable sources of energy such as solar panels and wind power because it would ultimately be less costly and better for the environment. It is only a matter of time until we run out of resources, and we should begin to think of future generations as we advance our electrical operation systems.

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