Robot Theater in the Bay Area

We held 5 workshops in Santa Cruz, on the UCSC Campus.  These were small, hands-on workshops where participants learned the basics involved in programming our NAO robots.  The workshops were flexible, allowing people to explore the particular aspects of a robot’s capabilities that matched their interests.  Several participants were graduate students in, or alumni of, the Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) program at UCSC. Some people investigated the text-to-speech functionality, others wanted to create skits that involved human-robot interaction and robot-robot interaction with speech recognition.  One person wanted to work with the sensors on robot and understand balance and movement.  I always learn something new when I introduce the robots to a new audience.  Fresh perspectives and interests lead to new ways of thinking about the role that these robots can play in theater.

During these workshops, we talked about the overall vision of the program: to bring the robots to Santa Cruz for a series of summer programs for elementary, middle and high school students in 2017.  In order to make this happen, we need the following:

  • students interested in participating in the camps
  • people to help staff the camps and bring their expertise to the project
    • undergraduate/graduate students
    • K-12 educators,
    • performing artists,
    • playwrights
    • university faculty
  • local theater organizations to partner with us to put on performances.

As you can imagine, this project is extremely interdisciplinary in nature!

After our workshops in Santa Cruz, we drove over the hill to hold a workshop in Palo Alto.  The participants there wrote a program to have a robot function as an MP3 player, using the sensors on the head to serve as the controller.

In the evening, we gave a short presentation which included a few skits that were created over the past 4 years, and also a few that were created during our recent workshops and summer programs.  It would be great to offer a series of summer camps in Palo Alto, and we hope to start making connections to make that happen for 2018.  Palo Alto residents might want to participate in our 2017 Santa Cruz summer programs, given the closeness of the two communities.

I hope to return to the Bay Area in January and March, 2017.  I’d like to connect with local schools (in Santa Cruz and Palo Alto) to give short assemblies and presentations, and connect with teachers interested in getting involved in this project.  If you are affiliated with a school (as a parent or a teacher), and would like to help me connect with the administration to arrange a visit to your school, please e-mail me.

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