Let me introduce myself....
I was born and raised in California and have seen so much change to the amazing and diverse ecosystem so many call home. I studied biology, have a masters in art and have been involved in robotics for five years. This project combines my education, interests and passion into one kinetic, educational art piece.
TE+ND (Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed) Rovers are an interactive art project that explores migratory ecology in an era of climate change. The rovers are robotic fostering environments that care for their own garden of native California plants by interacting with participants and actively seeking out light and water. Each rover is two feet wide by three feet tall and has a hydroponic growing station on top of a mechanically walking base. The hydroponic growing station is made of ceramic material and has been designed to retain the right amount of moisture for root survival. The goal of the project is to illustrate the plight of California’s native habitats, to disperse native plants in a new way, to encourage the general public to participate in conservation and to think about what is ‘native.’
The rovers encourage the audience to assist the rovers by providing light, watering plants and helping the rovers to acquire the resources they need to keep their garden healthy. Because the robots navigate using obstacle avoidance technology, bystanders can “herd” them by standing in their way to cause them to move in a particular direction, and thereby encourage them to travel towards resources beyond the range of the robots’ sensors. In an urban setting, rovers will find water in sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, rain, fog, and from participants. In helping the rovers, participants learn about cultivating native California habitat and stretch the limits of human-robotic empathy and engagement.
When will they be built? How and where?
The Rovers will be built during an artist residency at the Exploratorium, a San Francisco interactive museum of art, science and perception, during the month of June 2012. My team and I will work closely with Exploratorium engineers and staff in the final build stages and the first deployment of the TE+ND Rovers. The Exploratorium will provide fabrication equipment and knowledgeable staff to help with construction and logistics. As an interactive museum, The Exploratorium provides an ideal first deployment site. The residency comes with a grant from the James Irvine Foundation but your contributions are needed to enable us to complete the project.
Who can be a participant?
Anyone! The Rovers are part of an interactive project intended for all ages. The TE+ND Rover project audience include anyone who encounters Rovers at a deployment site, including adults and children. Participants will be pedestrians, passers-by, hikers, bikers, joggers, picnickers, children at play, students and anyone who is curious.
The Rovers will also be used in schools and educational environments, helping students to explore ecology, biodiversity, evolution and plant biology. Students will learn about habitat encroachment and endangered species on the move, looking for habitat in which they can thrive. For deployments at schools, lesson plans from the TE+ND program will include handouts and guided discussions, encouraging students to observe, record what they find and to form conclusions about their experience.
This sounds expensive!
And it is! The wonderful part is that it's already half-funded by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation. The grant goes mostly to the Exploratorium for fabrication costs and being fabulous hosts. What we need to cover are the brains (Linux based ARM platform), eyes (optical sensors for the rovers to find water and avoid obstacles, ears (sonar for secondary obstacle avoidance systems), muscles (motors, gears, drive train to move the legs), food (batteries/solar panels and charger), bones (aluminum, Delrin, ABS spools), plants, ceramic materials and firing fees. All labor and R&D is volunteer. We just need to afford the stuff to build them!
Other Ways You Can Help
There are other ways to help out too. If you are interested in this project but are short on funds, don't worry! The Rovers can still use your help. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, students, drinking buddies, and co-workers about the project and make some noise!