Robots reveal their secrets to the public

 Alain Herzog
Alain Herzog

Much more than an exhibition, the Robotics Festival will enable both children and adults to better understand the technology behind these devices – of varying shapes and astonishing abilities – through touching, building and programming.

Whether utility or experimental, all the robots on show at the Robotics Festival have something to teach us. The 10,000 to 15,000 visitors expected on May 7 in the CM and CE buildings will be amazed at the exhibits – a mixture of genius and technology. Laboratories from institutions and industry all over Switzerland will be presenting their most successful achievements in this domain. You can witness robots crawling, flying, working in groups, seeking out odors, and demonstrating other abilities that you wouldn’t have expected. The snack-vending machine will be serving lollipops, coffee, and even candy-floss to the visitors, using it’s mobile arm, while Nao – a blue-eyed, humanoid robot – will do its thing. At the various booths, you will be able to develop your understanding, in a fun way, of the construction and functioning of these devices, that combine electronics, IT and mechanics. What mechanisms enable them to move? How are they programmed - How much energy do they consume? All these questions and more will be answered by experts – in layman’s language.
To begin in this world, often considered to be reserved for high-level engineers, around 20 learn-and-play workshops will be offered to young people from 4 to 16 years old. They will be able to register for initiation sessions in electronics, soldering, programming and assembling of their own robot. A great way of popularizing this discipline and making the children aware of new career options.

A funny little robot – with 12 legs!

This year, some 5000 plastic insects with surprising abilities – the Superpattt – will be given out to children during the event. They look like any mechanical insects you might find in the shops – the ones that move along by themselves. However, under their plastic shells, these little robots are hiding several features that are simple but astonishing. A vibrating unit and 12 little arched legs to go forward, or spring-antennae that enable them to get around objects, confer on them qualities that make older mechanical automatons pale into insignificance. The children can even compare the abilities of their respective Superpattts on a variety of circuits: combats, traps and of course labyrinths.

This important event, created four years ago, is organized mainly by the Laboratory of Robotics Systems (LSRO) and the Institute of Microtechnology (IMT). Entrance and parking are free, but please remember that it’s easy to get to EPFL by public transport.