Today I got an email from Mike Schneier with the Intelligent Systems Division at NIST. It looks like I'll be working in their Industrial Autonomous Vehicles program this summer. I'll be "helping to develop navigation and world modeling for a mobile robot that operates indoors in a factory environment," using ladar. Sounds pretty cool, I just have to figure out how much I'm going to get paid.
Last night I soldered connectors to the IR sensors that we're going to add to PalmBot. In AI class today we planned out sort of where we're going to put them on PalmBot. Brandon has a little HS-55 servo that we're going to mount both sensors to, back to back.
I might be going to the National Science Bowl in Chevy Chase this Saturday to show off our FIRST robot (although the thing is about robotics in general, so I might bring PalmBot).
I was talking with Brandon yesterday about how I don't think FIRST is really doing it's job. FIRST is trying to get people interested in science and engineering while not being violent (they are very anti-BattleBots). However, it seems like they're not doing enough to promote robotics. As the name states, (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), they're about inspiring students, not actually teaching them. This means that they expect the engineers to build a robot while the students watch, and have the students saw "gee whiz, that's cool!" and major in engineering in college. I think they need to do a better job of getting the students involved with the actual creation of the robot. Our school's robot is about 98-99% student built, but we seem to be a minority at competitions. I really think that FIRST needs to do more to get kids into robotics projects after FIRST. Right now their plan is for the kids to do FIRST through high school, then go into engineering in college. What they need to do is have kids do FIRST, then get robotics internships during the summer, or get involved in hobby projects. They can do this by partnering with companies and laboratories that specifically do robotics to get students working there. I also think they need to make the finals more like a robotics conference than just a competition. It would be cool if they could have a bunch of robotics companies there (rather than just GM or whoever they had this year). That way the kids see the other things that are going on in the field of robotics, and find companies they can get involved with or projects they can do on their own. Brandon and I did that by ourselves, and it took me a year to really figure out what else is out there. I think we're a very small minority though. I think they need to help other students see this too.