geekStarter Teams Updates – January 2018

The new year has started well for geekStarter teams. Here are some recent updates they shared with us.

OLS SynBio continues to focus on a plastic that will use a biological construct to improve the sorting of plastics at recovery centers. The team is deep into research on the structure of plastic hydrocarbons, industry standards for dying, marking, sorting and recycling of plastics, and more. It has been challenging to find a way to construct a device that will work – it is possible that the team will still need to pivot our project direction in order to make it achievable in our lab.

OLS team members in the lab

OLS team members in their school lab

OLS SynBio recently participated in geekStarter’s start-up event, and gained a lot of experience and insight into the entrepreneurship aspects of our project, and biotech in general.  We continue to meet twice weekly to research and outreach in our community, and have a full-day workshop planned with our mentors Lisa and David for February 2nd.  This workshop will solidify our project idea and plan.
We recently received sponsorship from New England Biolabs, covering the cost of several of our lab reagents and enzymes (about $500 value).  We will be applying for an Alberta Government CIP travel grant, as well as a Town of Canmore grant in the coming weeks.

Self driving and racing Raspberry Pi cars: We have been modifying and troubleshooting code on our original tank bots, but this proved trickier than expected. We will soon get new cars that have different drives on the raspberry pis, and their GitHub code should work better.

Ross Shep 2 (tank bot) small

Prototype tank bot following red ball

Humanoid Robot: We are adjusting the model for our robot with Tinkercad in preparation for 3D printing.
First Person View (FPV) Drones: We have been practicing taking aerial footage, and some team members are interested in taking drone flying lessons and getting a commercial licence for flying drones.
Water rocket parachute deployment and sensor package: We have built some basic water rockets which can reach 200 – 300 feet straight up! Next we will add an Arduino parachute deployment mechanism triggered by timer, altitude, or acceleration. We also plan to add a second Arduino to collect data on air temperature, pressure, humidity and carbon dioxide levels.
The Innovation team is registering as a business!! Students came up with the idea of running summer STEM camps using lego robotics and a variety of projects that they are currently working on. The team wants to deliver a 1 week summer camp for local grade 9 students, and they plan to visit local junior high schools to showcase projects, gauge interest and market the camp.

We decided to focus on developing bacteria that will break down fats in fatbergs, which are large chunks of fatty waste clogging our sewers. After our first 100% successful bacterial transformation this past month, we are ready to design our genetic circuit and insert it into E coli. We have not given up on our crop antifreeze project, but are going to pursue it on the side instead.
Aside from lab and research work, our team has started planning some events for this year, such as a parent lab night, and a grade 6 lab day. We are also scoping out some local regional science fair competitions to see if we can set up an information booth to share our project and inform the public on synthetic biology. We are looking forward to a full day workshop with our mentors in February!

Bear Decoy Robot: Work has progressed well. The drive portion of the main platform has been completed and the Remote Control system is being setup. The outstanding piece of the project is a Bear cape and we are considering using synthetic hides.
Football Tackle Dummy: We finished designing the platform for this, using CAD, and have framed the base in metal. We welded the aluminum frame housing the drive system, and next we will install the gearboxes, for the electrical and control systems.
Magnetic Levitation Train project: This project was used as a prototype for learning to work with Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) systems, which are increasingly prevalent across industries. The prototype turned out really well and we are going to continue with it this coming semester.

FPMHS team members working on their FIRST robot

FPMHS team members working on their FIRST robot

Competitions: The First Robotics team came up with a strategy and a robot design for the Power Up game, and has broken into specific groups to tackle the various sub components of their robot. The team will participate in the Canadian Pacific Regional on March 13-16 in Victoria, BC. The four VEX Robotics teams have 2 regional competitions under their belt, and are now using those experiences to improve their designs in preparation for the Provincial competition on Feb 18-19. At the VEX regional competition in Edmonton, we were recognized with the Most Spirited Team award! We also plan to participate in the annual Skills Alberta Robotics competition on May 31-June 1, which will involve a game based on oil wells and pipelines.

We currently have 4 groups working in the Ted Harrison Design Thinking Club. One group is researching osteoporosis and looking to see if some of the techniques that are used in creating genetically modified organisms could be useful in slowing down degradation of bones. Another group is researching ways to manipulate the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. The other two groups are focused on information technology; one is designing a robot that can pickup garbage, and the other is working on an app that would help students who are transitioning from high-school to post-secondary connect with potential landlords or with other students who may sell items such as textbooks and furniture.
The biology-based groups are still researching and narrowing down the project ideas they will be tackling. They plan to do some lab experiments in the near future, to learn and practice lab skills. The app design group is doing market research at the moment, by talking to a variety of individuals to see what they think about their app and get ideas on what features people are looking for. The robot design group is currently learning how to code using Javascript, which will be later used to control the robot.

Over the last month, Nexus Robotics kicked off two key projects: the geekStarter project and FIRST Robotics competition. Over the Christmas break, the team held 2 workshops where we discussed the geekStarter project and developed requirements for our competition robot which will host the software to be developed under the geekStarter project. We learned about behavioural algorithms, and ordered training materials for behavioral programming, which some of us are currently using in preparation for design activities in late January. After the team identified the prototype robot platform, 6 team members proceeded to assemble the prototype robots with 3 robots now working and 1 robot still being debugged. We plan to start implementing the first 2 behaviours at the end of January.

NEXUS Robotics team on FIRST Kickoff Day

NEXUS Robotics team on FIRST Kickoff Day

On Jan 6th, we participated in the FIRST Kickoff, which marks the start of the 6 week robot build season. After watching the official reveal video, the team spent the rest of the day analyzing the rules and determining a game strategy. This year, the autonomous mode is particularly challenging. As part of our strategy, we will implement collision prediction and avoidance of other robots as they navigate the field. Following the kickoff weekend, we quickly moved into the modelling and design phase, and started building the prototypes for various components of our robot. The electronics and software group has been busy assembling the computer and drive electronics and the power distribution system. While the robot build is underway, we will program and test a couple of robot behaviours. Once we’ve debugged these behaviours and got them to work, we will begin to design the custom behaviours required for collision prediction and avoidance.

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