On Saturday, April 25, 2015, Spanning Tree made its inaugural appearance at the Robot Fest celebration of the creative use of technology.
This annual event features dozens of exhibitors showing off not only robotics from R2D2 to unmanned aerial vehicles and everything in between, but also 3D printers, soft circuit fashion, microcontroller workshops, vintage electronics, amateur radio equipment, electronic musical instruments, and more. It’s held at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, Maryland, which houses decades worth of creative engineering and showcases technical advances in science and engineering.
Along with information about our organization, Spanning Tree representative Katie brought a karakuri automaton she built from a kit. Originally made in Japan from the 17th century to 19th century, these pre-electronic robots used clockwork mechanisms to perform actions, sometimes even interacting with their environment, as in the case of the tea-serving robot she brought. Using only gears, cams, springs, and levers, it moves in a straight line for a set distance, moving its feet as if walking, and then bows its head. This signals that the tea is served, and the doll stops when the cup is removed. When it is replaced, the robot raises its head, turns around, and returns to where it came from. Robot Fest attendees were very interested in this demonstration of “old school” robots, prompting discussion of craftsmanship, ingenuity, and the meaning of the word “robot” itself.
Here’s a short video of the tea-serving robot in action: