Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center Offers Professional Education on Robot Capabilities

Engineers and managers responsible for research and new product development can learn how and where robotic technology can be applied successfully in the Robotics Professional Education Course, May 22-24 at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC).

For 17 years, the NREC, part of Carnegie Mellon’s pioneering Robotics Institute, has worked with industrial firms and government agencies to solve problems and create new capabilities across an unparalleled range of real-world systems. NREC engineers have used mobile robots and other advanced robotic technologies to address challenges in military, mining, agricultural and other settings.

During the 2½ day course, NREC faculty and senior staff members will share their insights in this emerging field, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of various robotic technologies, reviewing case studies and providing techniques for assessing the suitability and costs of robotic technologies.

Attendees also can schedule a private meeting with NREC specialists to discuss how their organizations might take advantage of robotic technologies.

The cost of the course is $2,000, with discounts available for NREC sponsors, government employees and registrations completed by April 20. For more information, visit

Robot Film Festival to feature first Botskers Red-Carpet Awards Ceremony

This is not your ordinary film festival. The brainchild of Heather Knight, founder of Marilyn Monrobot, the first-of-its-kind Robot Film Festival on June 16-17, 2011 at Three Legged Dog theatre in lower Manhattan aims to create an interdisciplinary community that lives on after the event. The days are structured more like a TED event than a traditional film festival, and attendees are encouraged to block out the whole day or weekend.

The festival will showcase and premiere short films that are one to eight minutes in length that feature robots as main characters in a variety of categories including dramas, comedies, love stories, exercise videos and animation. It will feature screenings of juried selections from open-call submissions, live performances by robot entertainers, technology and art installations, cocktail and coffee mixers, a black-tie cocktail party and red-carpet awards ceremony, The Botskers, a film-making workshop, and a Sunday afternoon robot-themed cookout, dubbed the BotBQ.

“Our goal with the film festival and the expanding community that we’re building around it is to explore modern relationships between mankind, technology and nature,” says Heather Knight, founder of Marilyn Monrobot and executive producer and director of the event. “The films include stories about real and fictional robots, depicting interactions between robots, nature and society. They’re created with consideration of overall entertainment value, inspiration of future technologies, creativity and robot design.”

Knight, a prominent social roboticist, is currently conducting her doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. She runs Marilyn Monrobot Labs, based in New York City, which creates socially intelligent robot performances and sensor-based electronic art. A comedic performance with her robot, Data, during a TED conference held earlier this year has since become a viral sensation. She has created robotics and instrumentation at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, interactive installations with Syyn Labs, and led field applications and sensor design at Aldebaran Robotics. Knight is an alumnus of the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab.

Spike Jonze Robot Love Story to Open Festival

The Robot Film Festival opens on July 16 with a screening of the Spike Jonze’s film short I’m Here, a robot love story celebrating a life enriched by creativity. The movie is set in contemporary L.A., where life moves at a seemingly regular pace with the exception of a certain amount of robot residents who love among the population. A male robot librarian lives a solitary and methodical life — devoid of creativity, joy and passion – until he meets an adventurous and free spirited female robot. The film stars British actor Andrew Garfield (Boy A, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Social Network) and Sienna Guillory, one of Maxim magazine’s 100 sexiest women.

Introducing the First-Ever Botskers (Robot Oscars)

The big finale on Saturday is a black-tie event (think Robot Oscars) following the screening all the films on July 16. Prior to the red-carpet awards ceremony, festival-goers will be treated to interactive art and technology installations that are cherry picked from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, a cocktail party and human robot performances. During the awards ceremony, attendees will learn to “do the robot” from L.A.-based robot dance professional Josh Ventura.

Human/robot performances leading up to and during The Botskers ceremony include:

  • Reggie Watts: A Brooklyn-based comedian has created a special performance with Data the Robot, in collaboration with festival founder Heather Knight
  • Jilted: A human/virtual rock band featuring singer and guitarist Milena Mepris with lady-clone backup musicians whom Mepris controls and triggers with foot pedals
  • Double Rainbow: Guitarist meets fluorescent percussive robot characters, blending prehistoric with hipster futuristic qualities
  • Robot Cowboy: The festival’s only token Cyborg performance: Dan Wilcox performs with a live monitor mounted on his head, inspired by the question of why have separate video projections when you can *be* the projection?

The Botskers award categories include: Best Robot Actor, Best Laughs, Best Robot Dance, Most Inspiring, Most Impactful, Most Uncanny, Best Robot Future and more. The 3D-printed Botsker statuettes, designed by Shawn Sims, will feature award titles that are robotically milled and carved out by a robot.

Sunday Film-Making Workshop, Followed by Robot-Inspired BotBQ

One of the goals of the festival is to inspire people to tell stories with robots, sharing insights across disciplines and learning by doing. There will be a film-making workshop during the second day that will rely on participants’ creativity to form interdisciplinary teams, pull together a story and quickly shoot and edit the footage, all in a three-and-a-half hour period. Sponsored by New York Science House, this is a hands-on, action-packed event resembling a 24-hour campus filmmaking contest rather than an instructional workshop. Materials and support resources will be provided. A gallery of the workshop films will be featured online alongside the award-winning films following event.

The BotBQ, a robot-themed cookout on Sunday afternoon is the closing celebration of the festival, during which festival attendees will don tinfoil hats and enjoy botgers, roboribs and heaping spoonfuls of podata salad.

Tickets for the first Robot Film Festival range in price from $25 to $90, and are available for purchase online here:

About the Robot Film Festival

The Robot Film Festival was founded by social roboticist Heather Knight of Marilyn Monrobot and Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute to inject a sense of playfulness into traditional science and engineering and explore new frontiers for robotics before the technology is even possible. With the goal of creating an interdisciplinary community that lives beyond the event, the days are structured more like a TED event than a traditional film festival and attendees are encouraged to block out the whole day or weekend.  In addition to the juried film screenings, there will be live performances, installations, cocktail and coffee mixers throughout. All films will screen on Saturday. Sunday features its own excitement: a film-making workshop and a robot-themed BBQ. 

The website address is and Twitter handle is @robotfilmfest. 

Pittsburgh’s First Art and Technology Festival to showcase in Penn Avenue Arts District

On Friday, April 2, 2010 Penn Avenue will be hosting Geek Art and Green Innovators (GA/GI): Pittsburgh’s first art and technology festival. Pronounced “GAH-gee,” the festival will serve as a platform to showcase innovative people, projects and programs from the green and technology industries.

The Penn Avenue Arts Initiative is lending its support to Festival Director, Christine Bethea, of Passports: The Art Diversity Project. “We want to involve anyone who has interesting ideas in the green or technology industries. We’re highlighting art and inventions. We want to showcase anything new in digital or dirt,” said Bethea.

The festival will feature an entire day’s worth of activities starting at the Union Project in Highland Park where Executive Director Jeff Dorsey will host the morning kick-off. Activities begin with a robotics “play date” for pre-schoolers that will include creative movement and eco stories and will feature the Power flower from Art Energy Design. Power Flower, which was adopted as the GA/GI logo, is an invention by David Edwards that absorbs solar energy to run anything from laptops to its own insect inspired bugbots.

Filling out the remainder of the day, GA/GI events become an expansion of the Penn Avenue Arts Initiative’s monthly Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn. Unblurred  regularly highlights various galleries in the Penn Avenue Arts District (4800-5500 Penn Avenue). For Friday April 2 Unblurred, features GA/GI, which will open up many businesses along the avenue and add green and technology themed events to the festivities. The Penn Avenue Arts District corridor will turn into a virtual pantheon of technology and green expositions with some buildings projecting film, hosting storefront demos or showcasing inventions.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute are coming to GA/GI touring a 2001 Scion xB, which was converted into an electric commuter vehicle. The car is part of a new research project, ChargeCar, headed by Illah Nourbakhsh, associate professor of robotics. Nourbaksh and his research team calculate that a typical Pittsburgh commuter might save 80 percent of energy costs by switching from a gas car to an electric car. You’ll find this vehicle and other forms of eco transportation at the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation’s Activity Center.

Others among the numerous Penn Avenue organizations and companies getting involved include Modern Formations, a gallery whose owner Jen Quinio is expanding her 6th annual Spring Salon by hosting Electric Owl Studios, creators of interactive toys. A few doors down, Jason Sauer at Most Wanted Fine Art is showcasing work from Edinboro University; he hopes to create his own radio station for the GA/GI event. Another gallery, The Irma Freeman Center for the Imagination will display a collection of eco inventions. And Deep Local, a Penn Avenue neighbor, has created a way for GA/GI participants to take photos with their camera phones that will upload to Flickr and be displayed during the festival. Yes, people at the event will be the paparazzi!

The capstone of the Geek Art and Green Innovators Festival will be a sneak preview of the long-awaited Glass Loft Condos near Negley Avenue and an eco-friendly fashion extravaganza at the nearby Pittsburgh Glass Center. Kristin Barker of Jonano, a company whose eco-chic clothing will headline the show, leads GA/GI’s fashion division. The show will also feature work by high school students from Neighborhood Academy, whose designs are made of discards from the school lunchroom. The show also has LED enhanced clothing from Webelow Wear, vintage clothing and nature inspired “defense” gear designed by a CMU robotics student, Amisha Gadani. The colorful fashion program will take place in PGC’s “Hot Shop.”

A complete listing of the Geek Art and Green Innovators Festival activities will be available closer to the day’s events. Meanwhile check out their blogsite for more details.