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Warehouses and Robots

Written by QuestBotics founder Lindsay Craig

I like warehouses. I’m not sure why or when or how but I have become a person who finds himself in random warehouses, labs, and fabrication shops. During high school I worked on a hay crew and we filled warehouses, attics, and barns with bales of hay. There was an album drop hosted by Guerilla Gardens in a Denver warehouse where I danced until just about everyone else had left. I once saw a very impressive glass flamethrower demo in a warehouse. I built my first product out of a warehouse-turned-Makerspace in Longmont, CO. When I drove trucks all over the east coast every three days I would find myself in some warehouse in Newark, NJ. I got the opportunity to tour the Fat Brain Toys warehouse with a friend of mine once. The inner kid in me left a trail of drool up and down the aisles–I should have set up caution signs, and mopped up or something. At ATX West 2017 I listened to leading automation experts talk about the robots that live in some of the warehouses today and what might make tomorrow’s warehouse more useful. Once on the coast of Spain I found myself at the fisherman’s market where people from the restaurants would buy direct from those who owned the boats. Where did they offload their metric tonnes of sea-dwelling protein? You guessed it: in a huge warehouse. I also taught electronics workshops in who knows how many other warehouses turned Makerspaces during my time as an educational outreach coordinator for SparkFun Electronics. One of those Makerspaces in Detroit is located near a restaurant that serves the best tasting breakfast I have ever had the pleasure of consuming (pineapple stuffed french toast with a raspberry sauce, gaaaah!). Often there are really good food trucks either in terms of quality or quantity (but rarely both) at warehouses. And when things are quiet and you’re in the right warehouse, they can have amazing acoustics which is great for singing and beat-boxing.

QuestBotics founder Lindsay Craig in the Tinkermill (warehouse) doing early field testing

There is probably a warehouse filled with just about anything you can imagine, somewhere. You just have to find it. I had the honor of helping to relocate one of those rarer kinds of warehouses in Denver about three years ago. The Resource Area For Teachers, or RAFT, is a spacious warehouse turned store. This is not extremely out of the ordinary. What makes RAFT so great is that it is jam packed with odds and ends that kids, teachers, parents, artists and educational community members can use for all sorts of projects and experiments. It’s the place Data from the Goonies would have begged his mom to take him when he was little. There are giant cardboard tubes and fabric and foam and weird mechanical things for which I don’t even have a name. It’s great for finding stuff to make Rube Goldberg machines, amazing sculptures, science projects (they pre-kit them for you too!) and even odds and ends to create a robot obstacle course.

Did someone say ROBOT OBSTACLE COURSE? That’s right. At the end of the summer of 2017 QuestBotics and RAFT Denver teamed up to offer a threehour workshop to learn how to create code for the QuestBots and make an obstacle course for them out of the cool stuff at RAFT. We made ramps, slides, zig-zagging hallways, and a tower of bottles for our QuestBots to knock over. To use the obstacle courses students and teachers will have to figure out the math the QuestBots need. Each obstacle course is unique, so the math will be different! Smart teachers even create modular obstacle courses so everything can be rearranged to provide a new challenge and be packed away for next year in a small(ish) container.

QuestBotics founder Delfin Lozano talks to people at Maker Faire Denver 2017 (hosted, you guessed it, in a warehouse)

After running our bots through the courses we discussed the potential tie-ins to school curriculum in various parts of the activities. QuestBotics always wants to help teachers, no matter what age they teach, so we took diligent notes. We’ll use that info to make our QuestBotics workshops and workshop materials even better. We’d love to come help you teach robotics whether you work in a classroom, space shuttle, museum, camp or, our favorite, a warehouse.