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Meet The Cube’s newest robot

Code-A-Bot is The Cube’s new interactive digital game in which players program robot workers to collect and sort rubbish in a bid to create the most efficient virtual waste recycling plant at DERP (Department of Environmental Resource Processing) .

This is what a robot in Code-A-Bot looks like – small and cube-like – we call him robot.

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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 Resource 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.

RoboDog

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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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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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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RESIDENCY PRESENTATION: THE CUBE AS A SMART SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

Hi, Lauren here. I’m wrapping up my two month TRANSMIT3 Residency at The Cube and next Thursday 11 August will be the official opening of the new piece I’ve been working on with the team.

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The event will feature an interactive performance installation in which we dine together in a near future where we change feelings like channels on a TV, swipe left for nostalgia, swipe right for glee, and follow each other as The Cube tracks us all.

Stay tuned for my last blog post which details how this event plays out.

 

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Public Programs: the year that has been (so far)

Leighann Ness Wilson reflects on her role over the last six months, as The Cube’s first STEAM Education Officer.

My name is Leighann Ness Wilson and I’ve had the privilege of being The Cube’s very first STEAM Education Officer. With a Bachelor of Built Environment from QUT and over ten years’ experience in commercial Interior Design, it wasn’t until having my own children that I decided it was time to pursue my underlying goal to become an educator. My role at The Cube has allowed me to combine two of my passions: design and education. The practicums within my Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning, combined with my new role at QUT, have given me a profound sense of fulfilment. I find the combination of education and creativity both emotionally and professionally inspiring.

2016 so far

Training was first on the agenda for 2016 as we welcomed new and returning facilitators to our Public Programs Team at The Cube. (You can learn more about our methodology and team in the post, Hello 2016, Hello STEAM). Over multiple training sessions, our team were introduced to new technologies and toolsets and discussed how these might be used within the framework of STEAM education to deliver dynamic and interactive educational programs for our Education and Holiday workshops.

A highlight has been the diversity within the Public Programs team itself. I am fortunate each week to work alongside fellow-students and graduates from various QUT degrees across Engineering, Interactive Design, Education and Creative Industries. We bring our unique knowledge and approach to the workshops, which benefit not only our students, but also each other as we develop our skills as facilitators. In addition to onsite staff training, our team spent time with senior software developer and creator of Makkit, Anna Gerber at The Edge, SLQ to learn the basics of Arduino. In April, Brian O’Connell, PhD Student and Research Assistant at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, Tufts University, Boston, taught our team the fundamentals of the Rube Goldberg challenge and introduced us to the wonderful world of capacitive sensors.

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An interactive firefly created by students at the K8 Symposium

Our Education program

A personal highlight occurs every Tuesday morning, when we welcome a new school group to The Cube. Once a week, during terms 2, 3 and & 4, The Cube hosts a day long STEAM Education workshop for students from grades 5 – 9. It’s great to see the students’ smiling faces as they make their way towards the Science and Engineering Centre to meet us. Students learn about The Cube as a digital interface, and enjoy hearing about the technology behind the screens, and how The Cube studio team research, develop, test and launch projects, whilst interacting with the projects.

Makerspace Professional Development Workshop at The Cube

Makerspace Professional Development Workshop at The Cube

From a facilitator’s perspective, within our STEAM workshops, I have been amazed by the students’ ability to collaborate, learn new skills and stay focused. Throughout the term, we have met technically savvy students and seen some truly creative solutions for robotic emergency response vehicles, inspiring interactive artworks and compelling ideas on how to make Brisbane a more age-friendly city.

Professional development & community outreach

The Cube regularly hosts professional development programs utilising design thinking and STEAM toolsets. This term, we have welcomed teachers from all over the state as part of the Education Queensland Makerspace Trial and recently ran an interactive design booth as part of the K8 Symposium in conjunction with the State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library for the Out of the Box Festival. At K8, we introduced the basics of circuity to a remarkable group of 8 year olds, as they reimagined the city of Brisbane for the year 2036.

Leighann & Yu - K8

Leighann and Yu at K8

As well as working with the students, I delivered a Professional Development session for primary school educators on using STEAM toolsets within the classroom. I’ve also had the recent opportunity of facilitating a hands-on workshop, for teachers at the Queensland Art Teachers Association conference, which focused on the possibilities of using littleBits in a visual arts classroom.

LittleBits Professional Development with QATA

LittleBits Professional Development with QATA

Reflecting on the past six months, I have realised the broader implications of my learning journey. While I have always been passionate about creativity and education, I am proud to say I have gone above and beyond my comfort zone–from creating touch responsive circuits using a bread board to designing and coding my own wearable technology Halloween costume. Learning through STEAM education has showcased the absolute benefits of learning from and alongside the students.

The levels of engagement in our workshops are testament to the vision and open source approach of The Cube’s Public Programs team. Together we share a passion and belief in the value of creativity in education. We work within a broader community full of like-minded professionals and regularly engage with experts to enhance our approach to ensure we are responding to the needs of 21st Century learners…and it’s also lots of fun!

 

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Hello and welcome, Lauren McCarthy

Hi! I am an artist from New York, in residence for the next two months at The Cube. My practice involves looking at our social interactions, the rules and expectations that govern them, and the effects of technology. I have always been a pretty socially awkward person, and my projects are often attempts to hack my way to better relationships.

A few years ago, I went on a series of dates with people I met on an online dating site and crowdsourced my dating life by paying workers online to watch a video stream of the dates and tell me what to say and do. (Social Turkers, 2013, http://socialturkers.com)

https://vimeo.com/66339316

Thinking about algorithmic enhancement of relationships, together with Kyle McDonald, we made a Google Hangout app that would monitor your speech and facial expression and provide real-time prompts to “enhance” the conversation. (us+, 2014, http://lauren-mccarthy.com/us)

https://vimeo.com/81903116

Most recently, I created an Uber-like app and service where you could hire a stranger (I was actually the Follower) to follow you for one day . I’d tail the person based on their GPS data, keeping just out of sight but within their consciousness, leaving them at the end with just one photo from sometime during the day. (Follower, 2016, http://lauren-mccarthy.com/follower)

https://vimeo.com/149917476

For this residency, I am focusing on the idea of the Smart Home and Internet of Things, and all of the promises these offer. I am going to turn the Cube into a smart home for QUT students and community, gathering data through its many sensors, and interacting with the people in the space through ambient instructions on the walls. The point is to question and critique the idea of a surveillant space that guides you mindlessly, while also exploring more interesting possibilities.

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Often the idea of a smart space or AI is represented by thermostats that adjust themselves and either the complete lack of any human feeling, or a sci-fi fantasy female character.

HelloSmartHomeCortana

I’m planning to dig deeper into the process of socialisation. Who are the human authority figures that teach us how to behave and relate to others. Maybe it is your mum or dad, an older sibling, teacher, or friend, or role model. How do these people watch over us and influence us. Could this social intelligence be captured and embodied in an artificial intelligence?

These are some of the questions I aim to explore with this project. I’ll be starting research with a series of interviews and workshops open to the public. Stay tuned for more details if you’d like to participate!