Robotics entertain, teach problem-solving




Charlie the humanoid robot stole the show Friday morning during his tour of local elementary schools.

"It can actually dance 'Thriller,' — it's got some pre-programmed stuff that blows the room away," said Yuriy Drubinskiy, science instructor and sponsor of the Garden City High School Buff Robotics Club.

The club presented Charlie to fourth-graders at Georgia Matthews, Victor Ornelas and Abe Hubert elementary schools on Friday and as Drubinskiy said, when the 58-cm robot performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller," it blew the room away. Charlie even took a bow when he was done, which evoked applause from the fourth-graders in Becky Wise's science class at Georgia Matthews.

Fourth-grader Michael Camarena was so excited after the performance that he raised both his arms in the air and said, "I love being a fourth-grader."

Charlie also performed some Tai Chi moves for the students.

The club just acquired the robot, and it can move 26 different directions.

"The second they see it, it's like 'Wow!' Its movements are almost realistic — it's got all the joints and fingers," Drubinskiy said. "This is one of the most advanced robots on the market. It can dance, it can walk with you, it can talk with you."

Before its dance performance, the robot asked Drubinskiy, "What do you want me to do," to which Drubinskiy replied, "Thriller." At first, Charlie didn't understand the commandment and instead of repeating it, Charlie said, "Sit down," causing the students to explode in laughter.

Before Charlie's big finale, students from the Buff Robotics Club asked the other students to design their own robots, providing them instructions on a task they wanted their robots to perform.

"We're going to use the barn and a couple of props to give the kids a real quick scenario of what they could do to build a robot, and using those little papers we have on their desks, we're actually going to let them create a robot and see what they can do," Donald Gaspar, a junior at GCHS said.

The scenario was dubbed, "The Cow Maneuver," and before they got started on designing their robots, Gaspar told the students a story about a stuffed cow he had with him named Betsy.

"Betsy the cow is the farmer's most prized milking cow. She's won blue ribbon every year of the event. One day, Betsy was out grazing in the meadow like she usually does, when it started getting really, really hot, so Betsy, being the smart cow that she is, decided to go to the back of the barn where it's nice and shaded," Gaspar told the students, using a scaled-down model of a barn and a bowling ball to demonstrate. "In the middle of the night, while Betsy's sleeping, a big meteorite comes down and crashes through the roof of the barn and lands right in the entrance, blocking her in. The farmer comes out the next morning to find every last one of his animals gathered around the entrance of the barn. He counts them all up, but he's missing one — Betsy."

Gaspar continued with the story, saying that the farmer found that Betsy was trapped inside of the barn, with the meteorite blocking the entrance.

"The farmer, disgruntled and really sad about the loss of his cow, reads the newspaper and while reading the newspaper, he gets an idea. He sees an advertisement for robotics, and he decides to come to you guys, the state's top engineers, and asks for help," Gaspar concluded.

Junior Kevin Martinez then instructed the students that they had to design a robot to save Betsy, explaining the parameters they had to work with.

"It can be a flying robot going above the meteorite and picking Betsy up, or it can go around the meteorite, one that goes through, one that goes under — whatever you guys can create. Just keep in mind, it has to be big enough to pick Betsy up but small enough to go between the meteorite and the barn, and you can't break any of the barn because the farmer wants minimal damage," Martinez told the students.

Fourth-grader Cesar Perez designed a remote control for his robot.

"So I can see what he can see," Cesar said. "I'm going to have a control in front of me that has a little screen. He's going to have super strength to pick up the cow. He's going to fly in that hole and then he's going to get her out, and then I'm going to be controlling him with the controller."

Michael Camarena, a Seattle Seahawks fan, named his robot the Richard Sherman 9000 and was one of three students chosen to present his design in front of the class.

"My robot has super strength, and he's going to get the cow without hitting the barn or the asteroid, and his name is Richard 9000 Sherman ¬­-- 1-800 Richard Sherman, so you can call him up," Michael said, evoking laughter from his classmates.

To see a video of Charlie performing 'Thriller' or his Tai Chi moves, go the Garden City Telegram's Facebook page,

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