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Page last updated: 9/20/2017

Commentary by S.D. Kaehler

9/16/17 Meeting: We continued last month's discussion about what The Seattle Robotics Society is about given all the changes that have taken place since it was founded in 1982. It began as a place for people to gather and share their struggles and successes as they attempted to build robots. This purpose hasn't changed but the landscape certainly has. Kits that are a dime-a-dozen online nowadays were nonexistent back then. But the same challenges still exist for the average, non-programmer even though the robot's construction is pretty simple. The software engineering piece isn't intuitive. Writing the software for a robot is still the most difficult piece for most non-software people and writing software that works the way it's supposed to is even harder. The goal of the Society has been and continues to be to provide a place where beginners can tap into people who have been there and are willing to provide a hand up. The Society doesn't do the work but provides an environment where people can productively do their own. Few would disagree that "it's easier to build robots now than ever before", but what does that really mean?

The path of building a robot has been cut through the thick jungle of possibilities by many smart and creative people, so though you can still blaze your own trail, you will probably have better success following behind those who have gone ahead. It's a little like cutting through an unmarked forest without knowing exactly where you're going or what arriving will look like. It's hard and takes a lot of perseverance and commitment. If you have those, you are well-endowed on this path. Don't give up. The Society will continue to be a resource to help people get started, but there should be some fruit born like more people doing it. Don't get me wrong here, we need trailblazers. We need people who will try to do really hard things, but they are few compared to the rest of us. If you are a trailblazer, go for it. Do the hard things. Don't give up. Come to our meetings to show us what you're doing, find encouragement and help.

I reviewed some of the questions we discussed last month and shared the efforts to update the website, the mission statement, and reinstitute regular workshops EVERY month starting this month. The meetings will continue along the same format with less emphasis on the presentations and more on what people are doing and helping them do it. Our meetings are a great social gathering place, convey information about robotics and technology, and about club activities like our annual Robothon event. With the Robothon equipment at the Fieldhouse, we can do local, low-key events right at meetings. This will provide opportunities to test Robothon robots anytime before the main event.

The 3D printing presentation by Scott Worley was well received and entertaining. He is very knowledgeable of the subject and will be back to present some more on other aspects of the technology and how to use it effectively. I believe this subject resonated with many members and it is certainly useful to robot builders. The Society is still made up of very intelligent and thoughtful people who love challenges including helping people get going so we'll continue to do that passionately. Reaching out to other active groups doing similar things also seems to make sense too Perhaps we can collaborate. Collective group projects centered around contests seem to have better success when there is a good level of buy-in. The Society leadership won't stand in the way of people banding together to do something big, but the club itself doesn't have many resources beyond the support we provide as a monthly-meeting club. The SRS has good roots that are deep and strong. Let's all band together to keep the club strong, vibrant, and energetic. Robotics is only getting better and better and we want to be an important part of that.

If you have comments or opinions on this article, please email me at SeattleRoboticsSociety (a) Gmail.com.

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