By Mark Adam
Culminating a semester of research and programming, five teams of computer science students put their robots on display at the second annual RoboShow. The robots were programmed to do different things, including playing a piano, fetching cans of soda from the refrigerator, playing Simon Says, answering math problems and running away from light.
“This gives students the chance to show off their hard work and it gives the Siena College community the chance to come in and see what we’re doing in the computer science program,” assistant professor of computer science and director of Siena’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence Sharon Small ’89, Ph.D. said.
A piano playing robot, created by Zachary Witter ’14 and Robbie Tateo ’15, scans cards with black and white patterns on them and then plays one of four pre-programmed songs including,“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “In the Jungle,” “Heart and Soul” and, naturally, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
Another robot played Simon Says and was programmed by Lauren Mathews ’15, Julian Thomas ’14 and Eduardo Barbosa ’13. Their robot won first place in this year’s RoboShow. It carried out basic commands like raising its arm, clapping and spinning around, but it was also able to complete more complex tasks. The robot sang part of Psy’s popular song “Gangnam Style.” Wearing a headset, Mathews called the commands into the mic and the robot carried out the commands, only when Simon Says, of course.
The students spent all semester in their robotics course, which is an upper level computer science class, researching and programming each of the robots. Still, there were problems that they had to solve, like changes in lighting or the robot’s physical capabilities.
“It’s a love-hate thing,” Troy Valle ’14 said. “But it’s awesome when it works.” Valle, Chan Tran ’14 and Kean Smullen ’15 programmed their robot to retrieve a can of soda from a mini-fridge. Mathew Banville ’15, Paul Cherrier ’14 and Jordan Holoboski ’15 programmed their robot to do math problems. There was also a Dracula Robot stationed in its own room down the hall because it required darkness. Peter Truong ’14, wearing a black and red cape, and Connor Blakely ’14 wanted to do something with light. So they programmed a robot to run away from light as a vampire would. They set up seven light sources in a dark classroom and then turned one off. The robot’s head spun around as it scanned for light and then moved across the room to the darkest area.
When asked if it was a fun project Blakely said, “How could you not have fun? We’re working on a robot.”