I consider an important part of academic work to reach out to the general public. This involves both informing people about the potentials and risks of robots as well as engaging children in the field of robotics. Creating a fascination towards robots in children, especially in young girls, and thereby influencing their later choice of study is an excellent opportunity to create a diversity in the robotics community.
SciFest is an annual three day science festival for children in Uppsala with more than 8000 visitors. The social robotics lab organized an exhibition were the children could learn how to program and control a robot or participate in a real scientific experiment. Our student volunteers engaged children between the age of 8 and 18 in interactions with three NAO robots and Furhat.
Heise Online, one of the most well-known IT news websites in Germany, gave the German RoboCup teams an opportunity to present an insight into their research. I gathered contributions from all German Humanoid League RoboCup teams and wrote an introduction to the league and its main research problems based on them.
Two school classes from the LYSA preparation program visited our Social Robotics Lab. Teenagers who came to Sweden recently attend the classes to learn Swedish and prepare to attend the Swedish high school afterwards. The aim of the visit was to inspire the teenagers what possibilities they have after school and give them a basis for deciding what majors to pick for high school. The teenagers first learned some basics about robotics before they could interact with the robots themselves. They even taught the robots some simple Persian language!
Once a year a popular German television show (“Die Sendung mit der Maus”) organizes an open house in different companies and institutes all over Germany. Young children can get an exclusive look behind the scenes and ask all the questions they always wanted to know – in our case about robots. Girls and boys could help us assemble and program our robots and learn how we teach our robots to play soccer. Early experiences highly impact children’s later live choices – engaging them early on in robotics is therefore an excellent opportunity to make this field a more popular study choice.
The selection of the right university to study can be challenging for students. The Department of Informatics participates every year with different lectures and activities in the open house at the University of Hamburg. The RoboCup team Hamburg Bit-Bots demonstrates their robots for the future students and offers a hands-on experience what studying computer science can be about. In addition, students from different bachelor programs give an insight in the subject of informatics from a student perspective.
Religion and science – does that go together? When Hamburg hosted the German evangelic church day in 2013, a whole day was designated to the sciences. Institutes and research groups prepared lectures and seminars about different areas in science. The RoboCup team Hamburg Bit-Bots supported a series of lectures on the future of humanity under the influence of robots with some demonstrations of soccer robots. A good practical addition to the theoretical foundations in the lectures.
The University of Zurich invited robots from all over the world to celebrate 25 Years AI Lab Zurich. The RoboCup Humanoid team Hamburg Bit-Bots demonstrated their soccer abilities in demo games against the RoboCup Standard Platform League team Nao Devils. Before the fair was open to the general public, a whole day was reserved for school classes to learn more about the field of robotics.
Each year, the Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg offers highschool students to try out computer science studies. Apart from lectures, students work the majority of time in a project that is presented to the others in the end of the week. The RoboCup project welcomes one group of students each year to work with their robots. Depending on their knowledge level, the students can engage in different programming activities and teach our robots how to play soccer.
Female students are still in the minority in computer science. The Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg therefore participates in the Girl's Day every year. For one day, girls work on a project and learn what the studies of computer science is all about. Traditionally, the RoboCup team of the University of Hamburg offers one project, in which the girls get to program simple tasks in a half day of hands-on workshop with the robots.