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Beware! This Curiosity is Contagious!
The Tech Bandits Session 2
The Cereal-Killer Robot Challenge!

It was the best of cereals it was the worst of cereals... It was my mission to arrive at this week's Tech Bandits session armed with... well, arms... robotic arms to be precise... along with spoons, bowls, chopsticks, glue guns and the brightest, most garish, nightmare inducing and cheapest Breakfast Cereal available to humankind... I feel confident I succeeded!
David Poses with Elf on Shelf Breakfast Cereal and OWI Arm
One of our Bandits honoured us by coming in early, before lunch, to get a head-start on the proceedings... high praise indeed!  It worked out really well and gave us a little extra time for Banditry...so if your Bandits want to do the same, then please let them know...but let's make sure that we respect the library and keep it clean... if the lunching gets messy, it's back to the lunch room with them!
Lone Tech Bandit enjoying Lunch and Robots
And why this bizarre breakfast quest, you ask? 
 
Well...during Session One, the Bandits were surprised to learn how difficult, or impossible, it was for people with developmental and physical disabilities to fix and eat their own breakfast... So how can they do it!?   The Bandits decided that robot arms had a lot of potential in this area....so this week's challenge...to feed themselves breakfast, with robot arms...was designed to show the Bandits how such a simple task...one we take for granted and can do with little to no thought while texting, or TikTocking or instagramming...could prove so complex and difficult when you actually break it down... and to make a mess and have fun, of course!
 
Tech Bandits and their robots dive into cereal
Working with these simple plastic robotic arm kits was a great way for the Bandits to marvel at just how much "processing", calculating, planning and adjusting our brains do... mostly without us noticing!  It sure lead us into a lot of crazy fun, problem-solving, iterating through designs, and figuring out hilarious ways to feed our friends or ourselves...or in some cases the far corners of the library!? ;-)  And what better food-like substance to experiment with than electric green and red vanilla flavoured Christmas snowflakes interspersed with mini dried marshmallows!?
Tech Bandits's robot arm flings cereal at mouth
The Bandits tried a variety of different spoons that varied in design, size and weight...some spoons were held by the grippers and others were glued to them!   While the spoon engraved "Cereal Killer" was popular, and the inspiration for this session, it proved too heavy and "pointy" for successful cereal killing with these arms.  Eventually they tried lancing the cereal with a single chopstick or tweezing them with the pair.
Tech Bandits trying to robo-feed
Multi-colour glue gun
3d printer diagram
3d printer hot end
Glue guns themselves turned out to be fun to work with and some Bandits chose to spend their session time constructing chopstick, glue, spoon and more glue into abstract sculptures...did I mention the oceans of hot glue?! ;-)  We talked about how 3d printing was, at its most basic level, just a computer controlled hot glue gun!

Glue guns are the DIY Makers secret weapon when it comes to prototyping, quick fixes and some very cool design work! They were interested to hear that some big budget Hollywood movies and TV shows use glue guns and hair dryers to create realistic looking spider webs...there's even an instructables covering the process with a shop vac if you want to try it out!

https://www.instructables.com/id/Hot-Glue-Cobwebs/
Glue gun spider webs
Eventually there was a very cool configuration that included light plastic spoons hot glued to chopsticks.  That design worked pretty well... both at getting cereal into mouths (by positioning a Bandit under the setup and using the controller to shake the cereal into their mouths) and catapulting the festive sugar flakes across the room!! 
Foreground spoons shake cereal
The many attempts to master the Bandit's Cereal Killer robotics was done using a cheap, simple DC motor powered robotic arm kit and their accompanying manual controllers...
OWI Robotic Arm
OWI robot parts
We then discussed how we could replace the controllers with programmable Arduino boards and create code to do the movements for us...with maximum precision and repeatability... an idea that inspired a couple of our Bandits to break from the rest of the pack and to start designing their cereal killing arms using EZ-Robot servos instead. 
Tech Bandits using EZ-Robot servos
While the DC motors that move the other Bandit's arm kits rotate depending on the amount and direction of electricity fed into the circuit, the servos add gears and a positioning sensor to the motor housing, allowing these little devils to rotate into precise positions...or specific angles...and are thus perfect for robotics that need to know exactly where the turning rotor is at all times.  We'll need some more time to work on the supports and the programming, but they are off to a great start!
How electric motors work
Inside a servo motor
Did I mention Tech Bandits now has an embedded cameraman?  Yes, "Get-The-Shot-Gabe" is showing his cinematic prowess by documenting all our Tech Banditry proceedings...and he's everywhere...like a video ninja!  He's getting a S.T.E.A.M. ton of footage too... so we'll need to figure out how to log and edit that all together... so let me know if you have a Bandit interested in the filmmaking angle and I'll figure out a way for them to get in on that "Hollywood" side of things too!
Camera ninja
And now... some other Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math Techlett inspirations for you to discuss as we head towards session 3!

3000 years ago a priest called Nesyamun died and was given the full, deluxe, top of the line, mummification treatment... a gruesome, yet fascinating process that allowed his body to survive, relatively intact, all this time... you can learn all about mummification by watching the following video... if you dare! 
Creepy but cool... this video walks you through Ancient Egypt's mummification process!
Nesayamun was a bit of a celebrity, so he definitely got a top-notch mummification treatment......he was even awarded the epithet ‘maat kheru’ which means ‘true of voice’... it's revolves around his belief that being able to speak his own name, after death to prove himself worthy of entering "paradise".  Sounds like he may get his wish!

And the only way for us to work out his name was to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs that adorned his sarcophagus!  Want to know how to read this secret code yourself?  How about spell your own name in Hieroglyphics?  Check this video out... it's got a few call outs to her website, but honestly, I didn't find much over there, her videos had all the good stuff anyway!
Write your name in hieroglyphs
Write your name in Hieroglyphs!
But how is this possible, you ask?!  Well, there's an amazing technology called Tomography, which uses some crazy cool Math equations to turn, what would otherwise be a bunch of numbers, into stunning 3D images...with help from a giant spinning Xray or ultrasonic machine...check this out... you can even use his examples to practice finding hidden unicorns!?
A wonderfully crazy, but brilliant video by Professor of Industrial Mathematics at the University of Helsinki Samun tiedekanava talks about the math and science behind tomography...and how to use your math and pattern recognition skills to hone your own tomographic predictions!
But what about this living dead talking mummy!?  Scientists have reconstructed Nesyamun's throat, larynx and vocal cords using tomography and a detailed 3D printer... I had no idea how complicated the process of creating speech was!?  Creating sounds is a big deal -  Humans use quite a collection of different internal and external parts of our bodies to do it... check out this video which runs you through what's happening...and then ends with one of the most random and cringey hand puppet performances!? ;-)
The surprisingly complex way our bodies create speech
And now without further adieu, I present Live Science's video on recreating the vocal stylings of Nesyamun, 'True of Voice" - our 3000 year old talking mummy!
Live Science's Talking Mummy reveal!
Yep!  That's it!?  Here's Nature Magazine's full coverage of the project... and if you scroll right to the bottom there's an audio link of that Mummy sound again: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y

An incredible achievement, indeed... but one that, to my untrained ear, resulted in what sounds like a grumpy squirrel with a stuffed nose!?
Squirrel says Neyauh!
TheTechBandits.com

Tech Bandits. Friday Lunch, in the Library... see you there!

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