Engaging Robots

On Monday, 2 March, we at Sheffield Robotics had the chance to brag about some of the many activities we do to bring robots to the people – known in the modern institution as ‘public engagement’ – at the University of Sheffield’s Public Engagement Symposium.

Our talk was presented by Ana MacIntosh and Michael Szollosy, who took the opportunity to highlight some of Sheffield’s many activities where we take robots out of the lab and out into the world. We talked about our recent demonstration of swarm robots at the Science Museum in London, our New Age of Robotics lecture series at the University’s Festival of the Mind (which is now available on iTunes), school visits, our associations with MIRO (watch this space) and the Sheffield Showroom cinema  and a whole bunch of other activities, including this very blog (and twitter feed) which, after all, is dedicated to the critical review and analyses of robots as they exist in the public imagination.

It was a terrific day, listening to the various speakers and discussing how other departments at the University approach the challenges and opportunities of public engagement. One thing that was re-enforced for us was that to do public engagement you must make certain you engage the public, meaning that you must have ideas and research that people are genuinely interested in, and that you have to take your ideas spiegeltent600and research to places that people want to go, such as the Festival of the Mind and its excellent Spiegeltent (pictured here) in downtown Sheffield. So, many thanks are due to the entire public engagement team at the University for an enjoyable, educational symposium, and particularly to Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Greg Oldfield, who so brilliantly lead and support public engagement activities throughout the University.

And on Friday later that week (6 March), we had the opportunity to see some further public engagement first-hand, as Dr. Roderich Gross offered a lecture on swarm robotics at the Sheffield Festival of Science and Engineering. What was terrific about that talk – other than the exciting news about developments in swarm robotics (more about which another time) – was that it was attended by such a tremendous range of people; young and old, men and women, all from a diverse range of backgrounds.

In other words, ‘the public’.

And continuing our involvement with the Sheffield Festival of Science and Engineering, Sheffield Robotics is taking part in Discovery Night 2015, on Friday, 13 March, where at Firth Court we will offer a Robot Foundry, displaying our range of robots for all ages to enjoy and learn. It’s all completely free, and completely open to the public. If you are in and around the Sheffield area, please come down and visit us!

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