Why Robot?

What does a robot that helps people look like?”

Last semester Mr. Blyleven, Mr. Hordyk and Mr. Van Eek developed a project titled “Why Robot?” that asked the question “What does a robot that helps people look like?” They intentionally used the word ‘help’ to get at the ethical consideration of technology. The goal was for students to investigate and learn advanced programming concepts while discovering the ethical aspect of technology.

Cameron Brouwer, a Grade 11 student in Mr. Blyleven’s class created a standout project that incorporated his Drafting class experience with the new 3D printer technology that HDCH acquired earlier this year. Cameron created a robotic arm made from parts out of plexiglass and printed out the “claw” on the 3D printer.

“It is an arm that works similar to the way a human arm works,” said Cameron. “It has a main arm, secondary arm, two rotation points and a claw to pick up and move things.”

His project was innovative not only because of the design but because he realized that he could incorporate his other design courses into this project. He would regularly research and discover how to program the various motors and servos necessary to move his arm, and he kept refining and working on the project until it was complete to his satisfaction.

“I first came up with a rough idea for my robot in my head and drew it on some paper with accurate dimensions,” said Cameron. “I wanted it to be big enough to move stuff but small enough so the servo could handle the weight. Then I drew all the parts on AutoCAD and sent them to Mr. Van Eek. He took the file and sent it to the school’s laser that cut out the parts. Some parts were made of wood and some were made of plastic. Then I took those parts and glued and screwed them into place. Just before we started our robotics unit in Computer Sciences, we took a trip to Stackpole which is a manufacturing plant and I saw all these robotic arms there creating and assembling the parts. When I saw the robots, I decided that’s what I wanted to make for my project.”

While Cameron was working on the project he discovered how much he enjoyed working with robots and computers and how well he understood them.

“I have always loved working with computers, robots and electronics in general,” said Cameron. “Mr. Blyleven’s programming class has all of that. I love making programs and watching them do different things on the computer and figuring out how they work. And programming a robot and seeing it physically move around is even more fun. I also like to build things, and Mr. Van Eek’s drafting class lets me do that. I can design whatever I want and then build it. My favourite part was when I got to design and build my robot arm. Seeing it in my mind, then to the computer and then actually building it was amazing.”

As Cameron enters Grade 12 this September, he hopes to gain a better sense of what he would like to do in the future, most likely something to do with programming, robotics and design. He has been looking at various Technological Design programs, but is keeping his options open.

“HDCH has prepared me a lot for my post-secondary education by giving me the opportunity to try different classes and find which ones I enjoy and would like to go forward in,” said Cameron. “The teachers have also been a huge help in pushing me forward and helping me with making my ideas come to life—like my robotic arm. I would love to have a job one day that combines by love of computers with my skill in programming and design.”