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A National Mission: Robotics!

We are thrilled at the positive response the launch of ROBOT has received from hobbyists, educators, professionals and the industry, and we thank all of our readers for your enthusiasm and interest. Launching this magazine has been an exciting experience not only because there is so much good news to report but also because of a common theme that permeates all tiers of robotics. Even as a convergence of technologies has made it possible to create better robots in all categories, a shared mission has evolved. The rapid expansion of robot educational programs at all grade levels is intended to help prepare future generations for a more competitive world. School boards, educators, government agencies, private and public companies, professionals and hobbyists are all pitching in to accelerate the growth of robotics across the board.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided a grant under which Robo Educators and the Technical Students Association are creating certified robotics curricula that are built around new robot products and technologies.

The KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, in partnership with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Saint Louis University, has received a research grant from the NSF to investigate the long-term effects that participation in the Botball Program (see page 84) has on girls’ perceptions of their abilities, interests, and achievement levels in science, technology, engineering, and math. The grant is funding 36 new Botball teams (already designated) at the 7th grade level, and the goal is to promote interest in technical careers equally between the genders.

At www.grandchallenge.org, you’ll read that the DARPA Grand Challenge “is an unprecedented government effort to accelerate research and development in autonomous ground vehicles to help save American lives on the battlefield” (see the inside scoop, page 76). DARPA has also funded a robot pool managed by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego that serves as a “consumer reports” for companies, researchers and academia (see LERN, page 16). These are just a few examples that represent the tip of an iceberg.

This is a magical moment in history when hobby fun overlaps with a national mission to build the very same arena—i.e., to ramp up all things robotic. Robots are profamily, pro-education and ultimately, pro-America. The staff at ROBOT is proud to take on the challenge of reporting the latest and greatest in robotics to you, our readers.

REACHING OUR AUDIENCE

ROBOT is contacting robot clubs, educators, student groups and robotics associations to spread the word that we are a multimedia resource that can be utilized to support your robotics initiatives. You can visit our online forum at www.botmag.com/bulletin to discuss robotics with fellow enthusiasts, and you will find original content at www.botmag.com that complements our print articles. A special discount subscription rate is available to students, club members, educators and association members—if you are interested, check out: www.botmag.com/student-clubdiscount.

ROBOT AND MYTHBUSTERS AT THE MAKER FAIRE!

We are excited to be joining forces with MAKE Magazine, www.makezine.com, to organize a fun-filled and highly informative robotics pavilion at the first ever Maker Faire, to be held Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23 at the San Mateo county Fairgrounds, CA in the heart of silicon valley. Bring your family, friends and a student or three for a weekend of hands-on exploration, recipe-sharing, creative mischief-making and wholesome play.

The MythBusters (Discovery Channel) will be making an appearance at ROBOT’s booth, and in the robotics pavilion you’ll have a chance to see demonstrations, projects and hacks presented by any number of robot companies, clubs, associations and hobbyists/Makers.

The Maker Faire is family friendly and will combine the fun of a trade show, family picnic and robot club meeting all wrapped up in one. It is the first ever major gathering of “tech DIY” enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, science clubs, students, authors and exhibitors. Other pavilions will host exhibits on weird science, digital entertainment, electronics and more, and there will also be a MAKE: Remix video film festival. For the details, please visit www.makezine.com/go/makerfaire_opportunities.

ROBOT readers will enjoy a 50% discount on weekend passes if purchased by March 31, 2006. Register at www.makezine.com/faire, and enter “MFROBOT” as your access code. This event is about inspiration, know-how, networking and just plain fun for Makers and aspiring Makers of all ages and backgrounds. Join the ROBOT and MAKE Magazine teams and thousands of other Makers at this grand event.

MAKE Magazine is a quarterly publication published by O’Reilly Media that focuses on do-it-yourself projects, hacks and mods—one of their four issues is dedicated to robotics and it’s a good read—we recommend it.

Tom Atwood

Editor-in-Chief

toma@botmag.com