Sunday, August 1, 2010

Meet Fabroid & Kidroid – Our single dad and son robots

What do you do if a kid dislikes academic studies? Or cannot find a job after many months? Try getting them to learn new skills – like robot making for instance! Jumble Station got this opportunity recently when robot maker extraordinaire Lim dropped by at Angsana Flats in USJ 1 Subang Jaya to invite 5 children of single parents to participate in a one day workshop on how to make robots.

Getting five youngsters to volunteer for this was easy, almost everyone of the youngsters present clamoured for the opportunity but in the end, it was 20-year old Kumanan, jobless for 5 months now, his sister Sujatha, Siva and his brother Kannan and Prityaraj were the happy ones who got the chance to participate in the course.

Mind you the course isn’t cheap, it costs roughly around RM400 per kid but what’s great about this is that the course is already sponsored by a corporate individual or organization so for the charity organization concerned, it’s free! Lim’s task was to teach the art of creating and building robots using everyday recycle items, objects and parts.

So there we were, bright and early at the Youth International Centre in Cheras where the Whiz Wits class by Think Technique founder Lim Name Aik was being held. There we found another five groups (a sixth group came in much later) from the various homes in the Klang Valley. There was the Ti Ratana Karuna Ilam group from Kepong, the Anbul Ilam group from Klang, the Cornerstone group from Semenyih, the Shelter Home group from Petaling Jaya and the House of Joy. The last group to arrive was ….

To get the motley crew of young robot makers into the spirit of creativity, Lim first had the youngster moving to a rap song designed to get their different body parts moving in consonant with the lyrics – right hand, left hand, right leg, left leg, head… you get the drift?

Rap over, the kids then swung into action. Taking the recycled items that they had brought, they got into a quick huddle to decide on what form their robot would take. For a while most were stumped for answers till Lim came along and guided them expertly into what would be suitable for which part of the robot. All, except one team of girls who came with just a sackful of mineral water bottles, they later got a helping hand from the other teams who had extra items they didn’t need.

Next the kids were given directions on how to use the various drills, bits and other electrical mechanical gadgets, the braver ones couldn’t wait to get their hands on the equipment, the more timid ones preferred to just watch or hold the items to be drilled fast.

Our team were perplexed at first and spent the greater part of the morning on how to get the base for the robot properly affixed because it was not plastic but metal. Eventually they settled on putting a square shaped hi fi speaker and screwing it on really tight. Next was the issue of putting the hollowed out printer and computer monitor together which was a real issue because one was bigger than the other and leaving it like that made for a very wobbly robot. Even Lim the expert couldn’t devise a way to get the robot to stand rock solid so the team eventually decided to completely remove the printer and just make do with the pc monitor which made for a shorter robot than most but at least it was steady and firm.

For the head, they used an aromatic bowl with its innards removed while its eyes were from an old binoculars and its limbs from a discarded plastic tricycle. On their own, the discarded items looked like what they were – junk – but in the hands of these young, enthusiastic robotic mechanics, the items were creatively put together to emerge as “Fabroid and Kidroid” a father and son robotic family. When asked, Kumanan explained that all the members of the team were children of single parents, they wanted their prototype robot to be a single father and his robotic son!And the green Hulk hands - that's to tell others to lend a helping hand and to green the earth. How nice, now we can use this item for a promotion the next JS goes on an awareness drive.

Meanwhile the other teams delivered pretty impressive results too, especially after their creative endeavours were spray painted silver coloured. Funnily, none of the other teams wanted to use any other colour except silver although there were green and red ones as well. The only team that consented to use only did that because there were no silver spray paints left by the time all the other teams got through theirs. Naturally every team was extremely proud of their new achievement and the JS team got a double dose of confidence when Fabroid and Kidroid were photographed by two women who were captivated by it while we were waiting for our ride home. With the robotic competition coming up sometime in September, you can bet, these youngsters will be raring to show off their new found ‘robotics’ skills.

No comments: