2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival!

Convention Robot and Endeavorist

The 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC was spectacular. It was my first year going and I had no idea what to expect. Of course, with it being at the DC Convention Center, I knew it would have to be big (I used to go to the Auto Show there each year). I also knew it would be big because I had seen a picture a friend of mine had taken with Elon Musk the year before. Needless to say, I walked into the Convention Center eager to take a picture with him too. No such luck.
      Fortunately, I had a backup plan. Besides coming with the goal to enjoy the event, meet new people, and see the latest and greatest of STEM, I was also there to support Endeavorist.org, a new startup, and to advertise my latest robotics endeavor at the same time (if you haven't already read about the project that I have spent the last year on, feel free to read all about it here).

Me and Endeavorist
      Endeavorist.org is a really interesting startup and I highly recommend checking out their website.
      While I spent a lot of time by the booth talking to visitors about Endeavorist.org and my robot (not nearly as much as time as the Endeavorist.org team though), I was also able to get around the festival and see a lot of the booths—it was pretty incredible. Unfortunately, I didn't take as many pictures as I should have, but seeing as how an estimated 350,000 people attended, I'm sure there are some pictures somewhere.
      The coolest part of the convention—in my opinion—was seeing projects and companies in person that I was previously only familiar with online. Kickstarter projects, 3D printer companies, robots, research labs—everyone was there:

M3D Booth M3D Printer

      M3D, a new company from Maryland whose $300 ($200 if you got one early enough) 3D printer will change the way we see consumer 3D printing forever—the combination of a lowered price point, clean and efficient design, and high quality printing is exactly what the market has been waiting for, and it's finally here. In fact, their Kickstarter campaign just ended. They raised over $3 million. Not bad. The team was really friendly and it's super cool to see a young new company start from scratch like they did and do something new.
      The Othermill, a small CNC mill for use in your home (and by home, I don't mean your garage. I mean your desk). I had previously seen them at the first annual NOVA Maker Faire at South Lakes High School, but it was nice to meet the CEO in person and see the Othermill itself again.

      MIT's Biomimetic Robotics Lab was at the Festival displaying their cheetah robot! It was really nice to get to see their work in person and talk to both MIT graduate and undergraduate students!

Rethink Robotics
      Rethink Robotics, a robotics company aiming to make industrial robots friendly enough to work side by side with humans. Their robot, Baxter, is huge and powerful, but also friendly—it doesn't give off the impersonal vibe most robots do even with its two monstrous robotic arms. This is done by hiding most of the mechanisms and wiring behind a nice red plastic body—the robot has also has an LCD screen displaying two cartoonish eyes to distract you from the dozen cameras built into its head (it also has cameras on its grippers); it also helps that the robot on display was playing Connect Four with itself instead of assembling machines.
      While I had heard and read about Baxter before, it wasn't until I saw it in person and talked to two of the company's engineers that I realized how different and cool it was. My favorite part about it was its "zero gravity" mode where the SEAs (Series Elastic Actuators—the same type of actuators used by Virginia Tech's RoMeLa in their humanoid robots) counterbalance the weight of the arm and allow you to move the arm around with negligible effort.

Some robotics teams showing off their First Robotics Competition robots.

Wolf Robotics
Wolf Robotics had one of their robots configured to print bowls of various sizes out of ABS (the fumes were hardly noticeable). I believe the estimated print time for the bowl in the picture was at least 10 hours.

Bill Nye
      A lot of other companies and organizations were there too, including several of my own high school's clubs. While the traffic to and from was horrendous, even on the Metro, I was heavily impressed by the event—it's good to know the world of science and engineering is alive and well. Plus Bill Nye and Dr. Michio Kaku being there was pretty cool too.