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School students meet Pepper at The Cube

Over the past two months’ school students participating in The Cube’s newest STEAM for Schools workshop, Tinkering with Technology, have had the opportunity to meet and interact with Pepper the Robot.

Students spend their day at The Cube imagining a future with robots as companions and helpers before tinkering with technology and craft materials to explore their ideas.  The topic was developed in consultation with key QUT researchers in the field of robotics and aims to inspire curiosity and creative thinking.

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Recoding robots at The Cube … DERP needs your help!

For the past six months, the Cube Studio have been developing Code-A-Bot, a game ased around a fictional recycling facility run entirely by robots. Code-A-Bot will be launched and playable at QUT’s Robotronica on 20 August and afterwards will become a regular project rotating on The Cube screens.

Welcome to the DERP (Department of Environmental Processing)

DERP has created an automated materials recovery facility, run exclusively by robots to sort waste into material categories for processing and recycling. Unfortunately, the code that runs the robots has bugs and is inefficient and we need your help!

Visitors to The Cube need to debug and recode the robots to boost the efficiency of the plant. Players will have access to a host of sensors and cameras to assist the selection of the waste and can fit different manipulators to move the waste around the facility and hopefully into the correct bins.

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Creativity and empowerment through STEAM for Schools program

Leighann Ness Wilson reflects on one of The Cube’s STEAM for Schools programs ‘Prototyping towards an age friendly city: LittleBits’

A few weeks ago we met RoboDog: a robotic companion whose tail lights up and sends a signal for medical attention if it senses its owner is unwell.  We also met the founders of ICU productions who make bionic eyes for the visually impaired and heard a design pitch for a tech-enabled water collection system.

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These were just three responses to the question: How might we prototype for an Age Friendly City? This was posed to a group of year 5 students from the Sunshine Coast region during our STEAM for Schools workshop at The Cube.

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Echo reverberates across The Cube

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” Mohsin Hamid

Here we are, the final Echo reverberates across The Cube in hybrid glitch form.

The photo booth is installed, the virtual mirror throbs in anticipation and the Echo character maps across the space. She navigates us, “Come closer”  she says, you are now part of something bigger”.

The last month has seen many creative and technical developments, including the integration of the narratives. They began as fiction and ended as readymades. Real intimate stories from real people. Through the mirror our storytellers confide in you, the user, revealing moments of their lives where they have suffered or overcome hardship. As their narrative unfolds the features of your face slowly morph into their face. They operate you with their expressions and leave you placed firmly in their shoes. This intimate experience forces us to relate and connect with those outside of our normal social sphere. Narrative has long been a tool for empathy, awareness and social change, Echo intends to push this further still by immersing the viewer visually as well as through the imagination.

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STEM Girl Power Camp at The Cube

The Cube and QUT’s Design Lab teamed up in March to host an exciting workshop program at QUT Gardens Point campus as part of the second annual STEM Girl Power Camp. The workshop coincided with annual World Science Festival (WSF) activities held in Brisbane.

Sixty regional high-achieving Year 10 girls and 10 teachers discovered the power of design in science, technology and enterprise innovation through workshops and presentations from STEAM leaders and experts in their field.

The STEM Girl Power Camp is an important initiative of Advancing education: An action plan for education in Queensland to address the lower participation rates of girls in STEM subjects and careers.

Program co-ordinators Natalie Wright (QUT Design Lab) and Jacina Leong (QUT The Cube) said they embraced the opportunity to provide such a diverse workshop program, revealing design’s critical role in STEM education. It also showcased the city campus and the varied opportunities available for regional girls to study at QUT.

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Tuning back in from the reverberating world of ECHO …

A month under my belt and still two to go. The project is growing limbs by the second and each day seems more exciting than the last. Tech wise our facial tracking application is well on the way to having the main functionality working smoothly.  Here’s a taster video of the first stage recorded live from the application with a few treatments added.

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The next stage is user interface design and narrative content. It’s time to bring fiction, drama and sound to the work so you might see me cruising around Kelvin Grove campus collecting and researching personal stories. Don’t be shy, come and say Hello and get involved in my project.

Over the next three weeks I’ll use this research to write some intimate stories with the help of the creative writing and drama students.  These narratives will be integrated into the final user experience where you literally see through someone else’s eyes, kickstarting the empathy engine..

Still so much to do but with the support of The Cube and the Creative Industries team, anything is possible!

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The Cube turns 4

Happy Birthday to us!!! The Cube just turned 4 and like all birthdays we’ve been celebrating our achievements and thinking about what’s to come in 2017 …

2016 was a big one for us with the Dino Zoo Holiday Program attracting over 24,000 visitors in January 2016. For all you dinosaur lovers, you can still catch Dino Zoo on our screens, check Cube Screens for dates/times.

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Lauren McCarthy completed the TRANSMIT³ Residency, The Changing Room, which explored the potential of The Cube as a “smart social environment,” responsive to the mood and activity of the people that inhabit it. The Changing Rooms was a custom software installation and performance that allowed participants to select one of hundreds of emotions, evoking that emotion in them and everyone in the space through a layered environment of light, visuals, sound, text, and interaction exhibited over a multi-level, many-sided display. Dealing with themes of surveillant architectures, social technologies, and smart homes, the piece simultaneously invades and cares for the emotions of passersby. Read more about Lauren’s final performance.

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Physics Observatory launched in September school holidays and a very successful holiday program and Physics Fun Day followed in January 2017. At the moment our public programs team are busily preparing for the Easter Holiday Program which we can reveal involves a QUT exclusive from Street Science. Sign up to the holiday eNews to be the first to hear about bookings.

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Their Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited QUT to launch a flood management tool and summit that could help protect their country and Queensland. The Dutch royals, making their first visit to Australia since taking the throne, were shown the Smart Scanner for Water Resilient Cities, developed by QUT’s Dutch collaborators Deltares and HydroNET, during their visit to QUT’s Gardens Point campus. Translated on to The Cube’s screens, QUT researchers demonstrated the tool’s ability to predict likely flood impacts from a mix of different local measures and contrasting weather events. Read more about this in QUT’s news story.

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What’s coming up in 2017?

The Cube Studio are busily developing their new screen project Code-A-Bot for launch at Robotronica 2017. Code-A-Bot will allow people to work together to run a recycling factory as efficiently as possible. You will need to attach parts to your own robot and then code the robot on the screen in order to perform tasks. This will be a great introduction to coding and will showcase QUT’s robotics initiatives, while also inspiring group collaboration and a greater understanding of resource management.

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Georgie Pinn’s residency Echo is underway and we are excited to see what comes of her research project which uses interactive facial detection technology, combined with animation and sound. Read more about Georgie in her first blog post.

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Welcome Georgie

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Ello!

I’m a multimedia artist completing a residency at The Cube for the next three months.
I studied Vis Arts at QUT way back in the 90’s and since then I have been travelling across Europe and Australia making audio visual work for both stage and screen. 17 years later I’m back and with my geek on…

Here’s a link to my Showreel if you’re interested: https://vimeo.com/159136216

My creative practice has, for many years, used technology to explore notions of physical and emotional empathy. Here and now I’ll be developing a project called Echo. Over the next few months I’ll be designing elements and software for an interactive installation that is a morphing virtual mirror. The viewer will be able to customise an interchangeable avatar and fragment and mix their own face with the features of other people and animals, creating a range of morphing hybrid personalities. We’re also developing a real time facial tracking application that copies your expressions as you wear anothers face or multiple faces.

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I want to explore how we respond to our face being fragmented and manipulated by others and if it is possible to build community by developing a truly ‘shared’ identity? Does a combined identity extend the parts of us or dilute us? What can we learn about narcism and empathy through this experience? And what can we learn about micro expressions?

Two weeks in and already progress is being made within Unity, the game engine we are using to build the software. I’m also loving getting lost in transmission chaos land of animated glitch fragments! Here’s a video link to some animation tests I’ve been playing with: https://vimeo.com/203231463

In April the installation will run and the animated portraits will be installed into The Cube with an event that showcases the application as a live tool for Public performance.
Will tune in again soon, hope to face mosh with you…

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Putting the fun back into physics!

On Saturday 7 January, 4,200 visitors flocked to The Cube for an extra dose of physics fun to celebrate the opening of the Physics Observatory Summer Holiday Program.

We presented a range of Physics-inspired workshops including Hula Hooping by Vulcana Women’s Circus, live science shows by Street Science, a 3D flight simulator game facilitated by the QUT STEM for Schools team and Physics 101 workshops from QUT Physics Society. The live science shows by QUT Alumni Steve Liddell were a massive hit! Kids were amazed by Steve’s science experiments including exploding balloons with liquid nitrogen and a real hand-held fireball.

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Activities from Physics Observatory Holiday Program also ran throughout the day including Physics Wiz Treasure Hunt which allowed families to discover hidden elements of the Holiday Program. Kids were also awarded a ‘Physics Wiz’ sticker! Other activities included Ball Run, which encouraged kids to compare how far and fast balls can travel using tubes and everyday materials on a magnetic wall. Take to the Sky was another popular (paper plane making) activity, which got kids thinking about gravitational forces and how fast and far their planes could fly.

Holiday fun at The Cube

We also announced the winners of the ‘Life on Mars’ Competition. Kids were asked to draw what they imagined life on Mars might look like incorporating what they know about STEM. Banjo Seaniger (8 years) won an Xbox One and Runners up Shaun Gareth (13 years) and Mikayla Daley (12 years) won admission to one of The Cube’s 2017 holiday programs.

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Thanks for everyone who joined us for Physics Fun Day and for those who couldn’t make it Physics Observatory Holiday Program continues everyday 10am-4pm until Sunday 15 January. Check out this video for a taste of the program.

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3, 2, 1, LEGO … !

On Saturday 19 November, The Cube played host once again to FIRST® LEGO® League, welcoming 360 students and their team coaches, parents, teachers and peers to QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants was palpable and just one of the reasons FIRST® LEGO® League is a highlight of the year, transforming the Science and Engineering Centre into a hive of activity!

This year’s challenge was based on the theme: ANIMAL ALLIES. Teams of up to 10 students researched, programmed, and prepared from August through November ‘to think of people and animals as allies in the quest to make life better for everyone’. The tournament involved:

  • 360 students 
  • 220 parents, teachers, grandparents, peers, siblings … 
  • 108 (2.5 minute) robot game rounds 
  • 52 staff and volunteers 
  • 41 team coaches
  • 36 teams from 22 locations (see team map below)
  • 36 robots 
  • 12 award recipients
  • 6 robot game tables
  • 4 practice tables
  • 4 concurrent activities (Robot Game, Robot Design, Project, Core Values)
  • 4 national qualifiers 
  • And many LEGO pieces! 

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One of the team coaches, Jackie Child, captured the spirit of the tournament experience in her article, Our FIRST LEGO League Journey.

Twelve awards were presented this year to the following teams:

Champions Award – iCode 22
Robot Performance – OLA Cybermonkeys
Robot Design (Mechanical Design) – Robros
Robot Design (Programming) – RobotIGGS
Robot Design (Strategy and Innovation) – Lego Central
Project (Research) – MGH Robots 2
Project (Innovation) – iCode New Dawn
Project (Presentation) – Sharks
Core Values (Gracious Professionalism) – Lasiorhinus krefftii Mark II
Core Values (Teamwork) – Hillbrook Team 1
Core Values (Inspiration) – Omega Dragons
Judge Award – Padua College 1 

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Those selected for the Nationals at Macquarie University, Sydney, on 10 December, are: 

  • iCode 22
  • iCode New Dawn
  • Padua College 2
  • OLA Cybermonkeys 

Congratulations again to all participating teams – until next year!

Jacina Leong and Elise Wilkinson – Co–Directors, FIRST LEGO League, and Public Programs, The Cube