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Greetings Again, Tech Bandit family and Friendlies!

Session 3 really messed with our heads!  Not surprising as our heads were clasped in the cold plastic fingers of a 3d printed headset, festooned with EEG sensors...this one in fact:

OpenBCI EEG Headset

What madness is this you ask?
I'll tell you... but before that... A few of the Bandits were chatting over lunch (yes, even more dedicated Bandits chose to skip their outdoor time to join us for lunch! ) about last week's 3000 year old Mummy speaks story... they seemed particularly interested by the scanning and printing process that recreated the vocal tract of this ancient priest... Could this eventually lead to hearing him say actual words?  We then looked up the audio file and laughed at what it sounds like when Nesyamun goes "Neyaah"!... it's all Mummy's, munching and science around here! ;-)

The following are actual images of the scan and the 3D printed vocal tract...kinda creepy, but totally cool, no?

Now back to brains!  Since we're looking at different ways that our robots and robotic arms can be controlled, why not have our Bandits actually use their brains...I'm so tempted to add, "for a change" to that...but I'm far too mature!

It turns out that our bodies are basically a fabulous bag of electro-chemical batteries, controlled by millions of tiny millivoltage nerves!?

Here's a couple of incredible "Crash Course" episodes all about the nervous system... there's a STEAM ton of information packed in here and Hank talks really fast, but it's a fantastic overview of just how we humans work!

Hank Green's amazing Crash Course on the Nervous System...Part One
And here's Part 2 which covers the whole electrical side of the nervous cool! we took advantage of these electrical patterns in our brain by attaching electrodes attached to the back and sides of the head, the forehead and ears for ground and reference signals to listen in on them.  As I've said, these voltages are tiny... so we used my OpenBCI microprocessor board to amplify the miniscule electrical signal enough that we could get a good look at them.... and well... you see for yourselves!
Future plans for this... using these signals to control our projects!  The Bandits seem really excited about this... one of the ideas that came up (despite my questioning the actual science behind it) was a lie detector, or polygraph test.  The plan would be to combine our EEG signals with something called galvanic skin response, which measures the electrical characteristics of skin. (the basic idea being that if you sweat you conduct electricity better)...and if we're going that far why not add a way to track breathing and heart rates...maybe even see if we can create our own DIY polygraph... I shall busy myself gathering the necessary components! 

Do polygraphs really know if you are lying or not? What kind of technology are you interested in controlling with your mind?  How would or could you use brain computer interfaces in the future?  
Old School Polygraph machine

Those that dared to wear the jabby stabby EEG headset of pain had a few goes at silently "screaming on the inside" to watch their EEG signals jump from the low readings associated with closed eyes calm and we also used the software to pick up eye blinks, head movement and jaw clenching! 

Then we moved on to other cool forms of input...This time in the form of a face attacking robot spider!  


Face Attacking Robot Spider!
Spider Face...Oh yeah!  I walked the kids through a very simple blockly program that uses the camera and processes each frame, scanning the image for a face.  When it finds a face, it rears up and claws the air with its front legs... Attack Spider style!  

However, apparently my terrifying face lunger was soon reduced to giving hugs and dance moves as the Bandits took the programming controls and turned this once ferocious noble battle beast into a domesticated robo-arachnid puppy!? 

And they want me to call them "Terrors"!?

Which reminds me... my talented friend and fellow Tech Bandits supporter Jack Jasra, ( is the guy who created our logo.  Well, he heard my laughing about how the kids keep telling me they preferred to be known as Tech Terrors rather than Tech Bandits... and so he designed this for us...what a great guy

The Tech Bandits...ummm Tech Terrors?

If you think you or your Terror or Bandit might want a T-shirt they are now available in our store!
How do you make Tech Bandit money on the Internet?... anyway you can! ;-)

While the Spider was being programmatically reduced to robo-poodle, our robot arms were getting the full tear-down!  One of our arms didn't make it through the last Cereal Killer-Robotics session, so I let the Bandits at it...and they weren't messing around.  While there were many requests to keep some of the parts, I felt we were better served saving them to use as spares for the remaining we may be able to 3d print the broken parts to create our own Franken-Arm!


Robot Arm Teardown
The Bandits seem to take great glee in driving me crazy by cutting the wires to motors and controllers instead of disconnecting them.  It's a Tech Autopsy tactic that I've been trying to dissuade bandits from doing since year one of all this. So, at the risk of yet more cut cables, I'm going to have to look into teaching them how to solder wires... so they can fix their mindless scissor dulling evil...let me know if you have any concerns or questions about that process.  We'd be using gloves, eye-protection and my soldering station and fume fan to keep it safe and make it all happen!

And finally... I dug up some more Tech inspirations for you to have a look at!

Apparently if you want to learn how to search for aliens... you should start by exploring antarctica... an exploration that also gives us a glimpse into just how much trouble our planet is in!  The so called Doomsday Glacier (It's actually called the Thwaites glacier) currently contributes to 4% of the world's yearly rise in sea levels.  And scientists want to keep an eye on it... with a robotic submarine robot called, IceFin!

IceFin aquatic robot is prepped to explore the Doomsday Glacier!
The IceFin aquatic robot explores the base of the Doomsday Glacier!

Here's some more information about this amazing under ice robotic oceanographer :

If you want to dive a bit deeper (pun intended) then you must read the more detailed account by Chief Environment correspondent for the BBC, Justin Rowlatt about accompanything IceFin and the scientist team to one of the most isolated parts... of the most isolated parts of our planet: Antarctica!


This last story is a Frankenstein-like robotics and bio-hacking treat!

And it's a HUGE breakthrough! I'd like you to meet, the first ever living, programmable organism...designed with the help of Artificial Intelligence... in this case evolutionary algorithms that mimic natural selection and evolution, weeding out the designs that can't compete...these prototype "froggy bots"...actually called Xenobots, are made using stem cells, which are cells that can be "nudged" into becoming many other types of this case... frog skin and heart cells! It is early days for this living robot technology but the potential is huge!

What would you do with this kind of technology...gather and destroy plastics? Deliver medicine? Clean your dishes?

Have a great week... and remember to Keep's contagious!

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TheTechBandits.comThe more the merrier! Please share this email and the tales of our Tech Bandits' adventures, with all your friends and family!

Tech Bandits is my attempt to inspire kids with Science Technology, Engineering Arts and Math.  Our club is a magnificent, mad, mess of curiosity driven exploration that follows random inspiring STEAM connections...often with a focus on assistive tech.  Adaptive, and rehabilitative systems, for people with disabilities or the elderly, include a ton of crazy, cool, innovative, inspirations, including robotics, biotech, chemistry, programming, big data, AI, design and so much more... and the Bandits really respond well to seeing the direct connection between the technologies they're playing with and improving their fellow human's lives. 

Contagious Curiosity - Inspired, Lifelong Learning

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