A 500-lb. robot with a base price of $400,000 giving out hugs was the icing on the tech-cake at the first Teen Tech Symposium co-presented by the MV Tech Club and Cupertino Library.
“The event went very well, and we had a crowd of just over 200 people by the end. The PR2 robot was exciting, and the audience really loved the speakers,” said Karan Gugle, one of the teen organizers.
The Nov. 9 event was the first of what Matt Lorenzo, Teen Librarian, hopes will be more partnered events with teens.
When Lorenzo was the Teen Librarian at a Santa Cruz library he put on successful events such as Battle of the Bands, a rock concert-like event, which saw close to 1,000 attendees, and he said he hopes to be able to bring events such as that to Cupertino.
The MV Tech Club did most of the work for the Tech Symposium, Lorenzo said, he mostly helped with the public relations end, but the teen team is quick to give Lorenzo credit as well.
“I think Mr. Matt was impressed with the turnout. Without Matt I don’t think any of this would be possible,” said Akhilesh Shridar.
And the club organizers enjoyed the process and plan to put on more tech-inspired programs, possibly as soon as March with an emphasis on how technology works in the medical field.
“As a team we realized we’re pretty good at putting events together,” Akhilesh said.
Speakers the teens secured included Shishir Mehrotra, vice president of product, YouTube/Video at Google, Rahim Fazal, co-founder of Involver, John Hsu, chief scientist at Open Source Robotics Foundation, and Steve Cousins, CEO of Willow Garage.
Hsu and Cousins—Open Source Robotics of Mountain View is a spin-off of the Menlo Park-based Willow Garage—presented the PR2, the robot that gave out hugs, as the final slot of speakers. Following their talk attendees got a chance to interact with the robot and ask questions.
The audience, made up of mostly 9th and 10th grade students were interested in robotics in general, PR2 and robotics kits, Hsu said.
“They were looking into doing something like this at home for themselves.”
The robot is used in a variety of ways, mostly in research labs in universities and companies, Hsu said, but it’s been employed for fun, too.
“Some have the robot play pool, and someone got it to fetch beer from the fridge,” he said.
And you can see the robot do the Macarena in a video taken at The Tech Museum in April in a YouTube video attached to this article.