Thursday, 10 March 2016

Engineer/Techie YouTubers - Who Knew? No. 3

It seems you all cannot get enough of my 'Engineer/Techie Youtubers - Who Knew?' blogpost series.

My first two blogposts of this series have presented engineering/techie YouTubers Jeri Ellsworth and Sally Le Page. I am so happy that the exposure to these Engineer and Techie Youtubers are such a source of interest and intrigue. In honour of International Women's Day and Week, I am uploading two blogposts this week - a rarity! The time has come to present another Engineer/Techie Youtuber who has caught my attention, and this time, her expertise is making robots - but with a malfunctioning twist.

Simone Giertz - from Stockholm, Sweden - has been making and programming robots for about two years now. What makes her distinct compared to other Youtubers similar to her is the stage of development that she stops building her robots. Whereas some would robotics builders would complete plenty of prototypes until the functionality was accurate, precise, and with a smooth locomotion, Simone presents her work... a few stages before that.

Behold the Breakfast Machine

Oh, and there is more! She actually makes short vlogs explaining how she developed it!

The Breakfast Machine Vlog

Simone showcases her robotic projects at a stage where perfectionists would usually go back to the drawingboard. What Simone's robotic creations reveal is that achieving something profound and well-admired does not have to be perfect - it can actually seen as a work-in-progress and the journey towards a goal can be the most rewarding and enjoyable part of a project.

Yet, imagine if a University student presented this as their final engineering build at this stage of development:
I made a Lipstick Robot

You would hope for a chuckle, or at least a smirk. Or, why not flip the whole situation on its head and give a sense of confidence that the robot is in fact meant to do exactly this?

In fact, I think there is a wonderful, refreshing boldness with Simone's creations. Whereas some have endearingly (well, perhaps that was their angle) described her as 'The Queen of Bad Robots', I actually admire Simone's sense of resolve and confidence. It is almost as if she is rebelling against the perfection that engineers strive for when building robots and computational systems. Usually, perfection is what engineers and techies almost strive for, thousands upon thousands of lives around the world depend on our calculations, iterations of constructions, and ambition for perfection. Simone toys with danger, and somehow makes it seem thrilling and delightful - like a children's horror book that is too graphic for the age group it is intended for. We all had such a book like that in our childhood. I still get flashbacks *shudders*. Simone can afford to create wacky creations, her robots will not be mass produced at this stage although I am sure she would have lots of orders, as it is all bit of fun for her own enjoyment. Therefore, she can ramp up the danger appeal and enjoy the hilarity later.

Simone's success with her robots additionally highlight that even the most technical and mentally creative of skills can be humorous, spark conversation, and be fun to learn about. Programming robots can be meticulously mind-boggling yet also creatively mind-stretching. I remember taking a Robotics class last academic year, in my third year undergrad - mechanical engineering students and fellow electronic engineering students were scratching our heads in thought 40% of the time, 55% was spent fretting about what would be in the coursework and exam; lastly 5% of the time was spent completing both. As we all learnt, breaking down movements and actions that humans do second-nature into building blocks is no easy task, but it can be done, and with all things in life - they get easier with practice. On Simone's Tumblr, she reveals to her readers that she is 100% self-taught in programming and hardware and that she gained most of her practical experience as a DIY tutorial creator for Maker Magazine. Simone has since then used the skills developed at Maker Magazine and more gathering knowledge to teach herself to develop more hardware projects.You can find Simone's current development work on her robots by reading her blog where readers can see development of her creations from component choosing, to testing.

What Simone has also done, which many technically-able individuals have yet to do, is gain attention from a mass audience belonging to different industries and backgrounds. From Refinery29, to Make Magazine, to the Discovery Channel, Simone's presence is not limited to one medium or one demographic of people. Her personable demeanor and transparency of her work makes her an engaging individual to learn from. Perhaps her YouTube viewers watch her content because they are more interested in her creative imagination rather than the technicalities behind of her robotic creations.

Some may call Simone's robots a work in progress, some may even call them sh**. However, as they say, "You can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time". If Simone ever reads this blogpost, first of all "Hey!", second of all, please continue to make your robots a charming hybrid of being a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. That is what makes them special. Keep doing what you are doing.

If you want to find more of Simone's robotic creations, ramblings, and her background check out her YouTube Channel, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Actually, watching her videos has sparked my interest to make my own robot. Perhaps purchasing the robot kit she used will be a good start...
Why not develop a skill too that made you more excited than afraid to fail? Overthinking kills joy. Just create, learn, and play. You will pick up skills in a happier mindset, which makes them more likely to stick. That is what I have learnt in life so far, anyway.

Take Courage,

Olivia

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