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A look back on Robots on Ice

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Written by Sarah FeldmanMarch 27, 2020

The Goal of Robots on Ice was to push the boundaries of testing and accessibility of robotics on icy surfaces and inspire the next generation. The sparkles in adults’ and kids’ eyes were priceless with many parents saying they would come back for future years

The Team:

On January 11th, Robotics engineers gathered at the Sunnyvale Ice Rink for a one-of-a-kind event that pushed robots to their icy traction limits. The event was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of planning by a team led by two women in tech, the co-chairs of Robots on Ice, Sandra Cheung (Director of Webex at Cisco) and Sarah Feldman (Technical Program Manager on site at Google).

Planning the Event:

This event would not have been possible without the help of the Women Who Code team and network, who helped to advise and spread the word about the event. Additionally, some of the volunteers were individuals the committee’s leaders had met at WWCode events and additionally as a Women Who Code Data Science group co-founder, years back. 

Icy Robotics:

At the event, we combined quadrupeds, hexapods, bipeds, septopeds, autonomous robots, and RC cars to inspire new STEM projects. The team from Silicon Valley Ice Skating Association also partnered with Skydio, Bayone Consulting, Homebrew Robotics Club, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, SiliconSage, Robot Garden, Bots N Beers, and robotics hobbyists to test the limits of their bots. In many cases, the robots struggled to find correct patterns to navigate on the ice. This challenge was exactly what we aimed for, and will hopefully inspire improvements for new bot engineering next year.

Olympian and Drone:

To kick-off the event, Olympian Polina Edmunds graced the ice, accompanied by the Skydio 2 drone. In addition to a beautiful routine, Polina also generously skated alongside robots during some of the robot play time. A video of Polina’s skating and ice skating robots can be found on youtube here.  

The Future of Robotics:

Not only did engineers and organizations bring bots to the rink, but some actually engineered and customized bots for the ice surface. One great example was the Marauder, with a foot print of six feet in length, which typically uses wheels, for mobility. In preparation for Robots on Ice 2020, the engineer in charge of The Marauder attached customized metal blades to traverse the ice, with its near zero coefficient of friction. Surprisingly, the same algorithm that worked well with wheels, performed well for mobility on the ice. Another hobbyist, engineered a top to bottom 3d printed spider bot to spider-walk across the ice. We were pleased that both experienced engineers and young kids took part in the event.

Conclusion - Thank You Women Who Code:

In closing, I would like to thank our partners and friends at Women Who Code for encouraging women to go beyond pursuing software engineering, but continuing to grow their skills and network through extensive programming and community groups. Early in my career I joined the Women Who Code group, which has made a large difference in my pursuits. I look forward to hosting Robots on Ice in 2021, and expanding the engineering challenges!

Be sure to follow our organization on Twitter! 

SVISA - Robots on Ice

Author, Woman in Tech, and Co-Founder of Robots on Ice - Sarah Feldman

Robots on Ice Co-Chair, Sarah Feldman, Olympian Polina Edmunds, Mars Rover-on-Ice, The Maruader, and a variety of Robots take to the ice.

Robots on Ice Co-Chair, Sarah Feldman, kicks off Robots-on-Ice welcoming the robotics community to the Sunnyvale Winter Ice Rink.

Steering Committee for Robots on Ice (from right to left): Robots on Ice Co-Chair, Sandra Cheung, Co-Chair Sarah Feldman, Olympian Polina Edmunds, Committee Member Spencer Goodrich, Committee Member Tully Foote. 

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