Thursday Sep 16, 2010

Room changes for JavaOne talks

It looks like JavaOne is fine-tuning room allocation for various sessions. I suggest preregistering for sessions you are sure to attend (you may get room change notifications), and double-checking on-site.

My two talks have moved three times so far! Shameless plug with new room assignments:

Java in the 2010 FIRST Robotic Competition

Java Native Access: More Java, Less Native

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Wednesday Apr 28, 2010

“It's Not About the Robots”



Dean Kamen, serial inventor and founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), often says this phrase at regional and championship FIRST Robotics Competitions.

What is it about?

This is my first year with skin in the game – not with a team, but as part of the group at Oracle and WPI porting and supporting Java for the robotics competition.


As I looked over my photos of regional competitions and the world championship in Atlanta I found some shots that exemplified FIRST to me.



The Green Reapers call a time-out in the final rounds of the WPI Regional. Something has gone horribly wrong, and they have to make it right (in front of the whole audience).

This worked at back at school...


No, there shouldn't be any parts left over...
 It takes a village to raise a robot


You can't always get what you want. Or what you need. But you go on anyway.



I guess what impresses me is that after teams learn that a plan for “the coolest robot ever” is just science fiction until it is built and tested, after learning that creating a robot is so complicated that teamwork isn't just nice but a requirement, or kids that never held a screwdriver before can make something unique and amazing, after learning that the math and science they've been learning isn't just useful, but it's kind of fun, after they have a shiny new robot in a picture with the school principle, then they go to competitions. Then they realize that haven't built a robot so much as they've built a “Murphy's Law” detector. And they have to deal with it. And they do.

If this experience doesn't help develop a world-class, science and technology literate workforce I don't know what will.

The most iconic scene that I photographed was team 51 waiting to compete at the world championship, when something happened that required them to swap out the main computer of their robot. Like a NASCAR pit crew, the team jumped to perform this lobotomy while on the floor of the Georgia Dome. Unlike most competitive sports, other teams swarmed around to help them. In this picture, team 40 gets ready to help by re-installing a fresh image to the robot's computer.




Team 40 used Java on their robot, which may explain the gratuitous Oracle logo :-)




The FIRST Competitions teach the kids to bring everything they have – their creativity, knowledge, skill, problem solving, energy, commitment. Then share it – that's how big problems get solved. And if they bring all of that to the competitions, they'll leave with more than they came with. And that's what it's about.


p.s.

Apparently it's also about having fun. And hair. :-)



Wednesday Jun 03, 2009

WPI Wins Duke's Choice Award for Java for FIRST Robotics Competition

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) won the 2009 Duke's Choice Award in the Category: Java Technology in Education for it's work bringing Java to the FIRST Robotics Competition.

This was worked started by WPI students Brian O'Keefe, Marouane Afiri, and Albedith Diaz for their "Major Qualifying Project". They ported the open source Squawk JVM to the compactRIO robot control system, and ported WPILib, the C++ robotics library used in the FIRST Robotics competition, to Java. They did a great job in in a very short time - they did the first port of Squawk to VxWorks (it was actually only the second port of Squawk to run "natively" on an OS), and were part of the initial proposal to the FIRST organization. I was very happy to be the team's "industry" advisor - this became my introduction into the world of FIRST robotics!

This work has been continued by the WPI Robotics Resource Center, assisted by the Squawk and Sun SPOT teams at Sun Microsystems Laboratories and other volunteers.

It's great to see WPI get recognized for the efforts to bring Java to the thousands of students developing robots for the FRC. Be on the lookout for robots in James Gosling's Toy Show keynote, and for the award presentation to Brad Miller of WPI!


Tuesday May 26, 2009

FIRST Atlanta Championship - Now With More Java!

I attended the 2009 FIRST Championship April 16-18 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA as part of the Java for FRC announcement. We demoed Java running on several robots, over-the-air debugging, and multi-platform development (Windows, Linux, Mac (and we kept getting asked about Solaris)). We gave a couple of talks with James Gosling about Java for FRC.

IMG_4198 IMG_4108 IMG_4136 IMG_4176

This was my first time at a FIRST Championship and it was pretty overwhelming.

  • 20,000 people
  • Hundreds of FRC, FTC, and FLL teams (and robots)
  • Four simultaneous competitions in the Georgia Dome
  • The World Congress Center filled with pits, practice fields, presentations, and people

But what was really impressive were the teams. It was really clear that FIRST was succeeding at its mission of inspiring students in science and technology. Students didn't just learn that science was cool - they knew that they were cool. These are kids that are not worried about being called geeks, or anything else for that matter:

IMG_1705 IMG_4155

Slideshow

As always, check out FIRST Robotics @ Sun for information on getting involved with FIRST.

Wednesday May 20, 2009

Upcoming FIRST events - JavaOne & Burlington Campus visits

Here are some upcoming events where you can learn more about FIRST, the FIRST Robotics Competition, Java + FIRST, and FIRST @ Sun.

This Friday, for Sun employees, we will have one or two FRC teams visiting the Burlington, MA campus. They will show off their robots  - and you can learn about what FRC means to them, and about mentoring and volunteer opportunities that exist. I'll also be here to talk about Java on the FRC robots, and should have a robot to demo.

Sun has given FIRST a big platform at JavaOne to show off what FIRST is about. It's also a chance to announce that along with Java being available for the robotics competition next year comes a need for experienced Java developers to mentor teams all across the United States and internationally.

There will be live robot demos in the Pavillion, where you can also talk to teams, mentors, and volunteers about FIRST. There will be a Tech Session describing Java for FRC - both how it was ported and how it can be used (TS-4945), a Birds-Of-a-Feather session for existing FIRST participants as well as though interested in learning more (BOF-4953), and perhaps a comment from James Gosling at his closing keynote!

Date

Time

Event
Venue Location
May 22

Noon

FIRST Teams "show-and-tell"
Sun Cafeteria\*\*\* Burlington, MA
Jun 1-4
daily

FIRST booth and Robot Arena
Java Playground - Pavilion JavaOne
Jun 4
2:50pm

Tech Session 4945: FRC-FIRST Robotic Competition
Esplanade 305 JavaOne
Jun 4

6:30pm

BOF-4953: FRC-FIRST Robotic Competition
North Hall 124 JavaOne

Keep in mind that the JavaOne Pavilion access is FREE. Students can get access to all JavaOne events FREE

\*\*\* The event at the Sun campus in Burlington, MA is open to emplyees only.

Monday Mar 23, 2009

Colorado FIRST Robotics Regional This Weekend

Just a reminder that the Colorado FIRST Robotics Regional competitions are this weekend! This is a free chance to see high school students compete with "gracious professionalism", as well as watch their adult mentors wears funny outfits and tear their remaining hair out.

Just 31 minutes from the Broomfield campus (says Google).

Date Event Venue Location
Mar 28 Colorado FRC Regional University of Denver, Ritchie Center Denver, CO

There are more details at FIRST Robotics @ Sun , especially the Event tips page.

Burlington High School, Team 2876

(Burlington High School, Team 2876, Boston FRC Regional)


Tuesday Feb 24, 2009

FIRST Robotics Events Over Next Few Weeks


This is the time of year when the FIRST Robotics Competitions start the regional championships. This is where six weeks of hard work by high-school students and their mentors are put to the test - complete with loud music, cheer leading, flashing lights and major enthusiasm.

If you've ever been curious to learn more about these robotics teams - for your kids, or for yourself as a potential volunteer, this is the way to find out. It's fun and it's free!

 Here's a short list of events near major Sun campuses:

Date Event Venue Location
Feb 28 Granite State Regional Verizon Wireless Arena Manchester, NH
Mar 7 Boston Regional Boston U., Agganis Arena Boston, MA
Mar 7 San Diego Regional San Diego Sports Arena San Diego, CA
Mar 14 Silicon Valley Regional San Jose State U, The Event Center San Jose, CA
Mar 28 Colorado Regional University of Denver, Ritchie Center Denver, CO

There are more detail at the FIRST Robotics @ Sun Wiki, especially the Event tips page. You can search for all events at the FIRST website.


Monday Feb 23, 2009

FIRST Robotics @ Sun Wiki

I've started a public Wiki FIRST Robotics @ Sun for Sun employees, alumni, and family to learn and sharing information about getting involved with the various great FIRST robotics organizations:

I can't say enough good things about FIRST - their goal to inspire kids to learn about science and technology meshes really well with Sun's goals and with the engineering mindset of many employees. FIRST is always looking for volunteers to mentor teams and impart that engineering mindset. So check out the wiki!

About

Out of the fog... of bits, bytes, and really small Java Virtual Machines, by Derek White. The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

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