Engineer’s Week at the Illinois Institute of Technology
(Note: Links in image captions are not live. See end of blog for live links)
My wife Noemi and I had a chance to go to this event on
This event has been held at this institute for the better part of 25 years. My first knowledge of Engineer’s Week was last year, but unfortunately I was not able to attend. This year as we drove into the institute’s parking lot, I did not know what to expect. From the brochure and information that I saw I perceived that this was an expo featuring the institute’s various engineering departments where each department had a booth demonstrating some aspect of engineering. I was wrong!
Engineer’s week features a large number of professional associations that come to the institute to demonstrate engineering in real life. The outcome of people was impressive. There were people of all ages crowding around every booth (or more accurately, table) trying to get a glimpse of the demo. The demos were “user friendly” in that they demonstrated different engineering principles, some more complex than others, in a simple way that was easy to relate to.
Both my wife and I were impressed by the different demonstrations that were given. We will definitely be back next year, this time reserving more time so that we can get a better look at all the exhibitions.
Chibots – The Chicago Area Robotics Group
Chibots was present at this event. The group, thanks to Terry Jackson, reserved a table where various robots were demonstrated. Mr. Jackson designed and built a small demonstration board that had light sensors. The user could light or turn off a LED depending on how he or she moved his/her hand around the light sensor. Although it was sort of tricky to get just the right light, or lack of it, to either turn the LED on or off, the demo board was very effective in introducing people to light sensors, a very important concept in line following robots.
There was one line follower robot that Mr. Jackson brought, along with a course so that the robot was in continuous operation giving the audience a constant thrill how it rounded the curves on the course and in various occasions how it lost the line, wandered a bit and found it again. People, kids and adults, asked Mr. Jackson questions about how the robot worked. Along with the aforementioned demo board and robot, the Chibots table also had two laptops running videos of more robots. One continuously showed a video of one our competitions, RoboMagellan and the other video showed a maze solving robot.
My wife and I arrived at the Chibots table well after the event started and helped him in attending the many questions that arose. We were there for about 2 or 3 hours and there was always a guest there looking at the robots or asking questions. I took the pictures included n this text, but had a problem getting a good one of just the Chibots table because there was always some one “in the way”<g>. Unfortunately, some of pictures came out blurry. I suspect that the batteries were a bit low.
100 Chibots Trifolds were printed out and at the end of the event Mr. Jackson mentioned that he had only 1 left. In all honesty, I took one, so “only” 98 were given away to visitors. This event was a huge success, not only for the Illinois Institute of Technology, but also for Chibots.
It is impossible to name all the exhibitors that were present. Professional associations represented every aspect of engineering, from civil engineering to laser technology. The pictures here were taken hastily, as we were running out of time. It was my intention to interview a few of these associations so that I could include more information in this write up, but I did not count on the overwhelming number of visitors. Most exhibitors were extremely busy all of the time and I chose not to distract them.
The pictures here represent only a tiny percentage of the associations that were present.
A Blast from the Past
The IT department came forth with an exhibit demonstrating working examples of computers from past decades. Included were a Radio Shack, Color Computer and TRS 80, and Apple II and Macintosh, an Amiga, a Kim-1 and others. I need to make a special note of three of these computers.
The TRS 80 and Apple II were milestones in the history of personal computers. They made it possible to literally have a computer in your home. Before these two computers the options were scarce or non-existent. The computers available before these two were mostly kits that had to be built and programmed. Several companies, including Apple, offered these kits to technically savvy enthusiasts who did not mind tinkering with electronics and programming at the lowest level possible.
The introduction of the Apple II and TRS-80 changed everything. For the first time “normal” people could go to a store and purchase a fully operational and assembled computer and be able to do something useful with it without having to program it. These computers allowed the user to manage a budget, write documents and soon, as more programs became available, were also able to do many more tasks.
The second note is about the Commodore Amiga. This was a revolutionary computer for its time. When the Amiga was introduced in 1985, only the Apple Macintosh came close in performance and features. The Amiga introduced concepts that were unheard of at the time. Such concepts included a graphical operating system that could multitask, that is, run more than one program at a time. Also, the operating system and internal hardware used a 32 bit bus. Back in 1985, the computer world was transitioning from an 8 bit world to a 16 bit world. 32 bits was unheard of at the time. Also, the Amiga had superior sound and graphical abilities that made it a clear choice for video editing. This was a task that only computers costing much more could do and definitely something that was out of reach for most folks. Perhaps today with Windows 7, Mac OS X and multi-core processor the Amiga looks obsolete, but nonetheless it was another milestone in the history of computing.
Noemi and I enjoyed Engineer’s Week and marveled at the diverse methods that were used by the exhibitors to teach others specific engineering principles. We hope to be back next year; hopefully having more time will allow me to actually talk to the engineers that will be present.
The atmosphere at the event was a bit chaotic, but greatly enjoyable. While at the Chibots booth we enjoyed answering questions and were thrilled by the interest showed by those that visited the Chibots table.
Color Computer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TRS-80_Color_Computer
Amiga 1000: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amiga
Apple MacIntosh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh