Innovation is creativity in context. What this means is that I can be creative about a lot of things such as how I cook dinner, fold my clothes, dress, do my hair, etc. All of those are great activities, but the context of those activities may not be all that impactful to improve or change society. So as an open source hardware trailblazer my innovation is about being creative about how to use mobile robotics to achieve multiple goals that will have some impact on society. As an engineer, many think of the robot as a cute toy but the true power in robotics is beyond just those types activities. Although, they also have some utility such as recruiting diverse audiences to STEM such as when kids have fun building and programming them for competitions like VEX, FLL, Botball, Sea Perch.
Some other goals are related to how to use robotics for outreach, to teach college students robotics and controls and conduct research. However, there are also goals to help academics achieve their professional goals such as promotion, tenure and retention by doing service, improving teaching, conducting research, and growing as professionals. One thing I learned as a professor and that I discussed in my last blog post was that if I can identify a method to have all of these pillars overlap and inform each other then my efforts will be more impactful and relevant. This is what I hope the open source hardware platform will do for academics.
By making Lily-Bot, Daisy-Bot and Rosie-Bot open source, my creativity in context can be extended to new applications with larger impact. This happens when members of the wider more diverse community get their hands and eyes on my design. It will come back to me, bigger and better than ever. Therefore, as much as I can share with others what I think can be done to modify, extend, improve, my mobile robot platform, the true power happens when I release it to the world, take my hands off, release the reins and see what I get back. I am so excited to send my designs and code out. I’ve already had requests to purchase the Lily-Bot kit and it gives me so much joy to tell them that they don’t have to buy the kits for their kid or high school class but rather can go download the files and change as they like and make their own robot.
That is the true measurement of my impact and value as an academic and educator. This is how I can measure my impact factor which is just as palatable or more to me than being published in a top tier journal. I am seeing the people factor, in real time and these are folks who may never real my journal paper, attend my conference presentation, or enroll in my university course. This is so much more than anything I can do or hope to achieve alone over here in my little corner of the world.