About Rockets & Robots
Rockets & Robots is the vision of Russ Rudin, an adult on the autism spectrum. After retirement a few years ago he decided to pursue some way to enrich the lives of young people on the spectrum. He started volunteering at the Disability Action Center, and after researching the needs of kids on the autism spectrum, created the Rockets & Robots Science Club.
Autistic children are characterized as having a “ragged” skill set. They typically have challenges in areas such as socialization, sensory overload and understanding nuance. However, they usually have exceptionally high abilities in science and math. Parents and caregivers necessarily focus on their challenges. The Rockets & Robots club will focus on their strengths and attempt to develop them in a fun and interesting way.
R&R Laboratory Space
Rockets & Robots Club laboratory has equipment for a broad range of interests including computing, programming, audio and light. Audio is important to those on the autism spectrum because it can be a source of both enjoyment and discomfort. With keyboard and tone generators, children can explore the low frequency tones that tend to calm them.
Likewise the lab lets kids explore light, another source of enjoyment and discomfort. Several low-powered colored lasers, that can be controlled by audio tones, permit exploration of pleasant colors and patterns.
The lab also emphasizes "Mechatronics", an emerging field that encompasses the use of computing to control physical objects. Rockets and robots are just two examples of mechatronic systems. By having mechatronics as a Club emphasis, kids are learning valuable skills that can be transitioned to the workforce.
The Club founder has decades of experience designing and testing mechatronic systems for both commercial and defense industries.
Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary area of engineering that combines mechanical and electrical engineering and computer science. A typical mechatronic system picks up signals from the environment, processes them to generate output signals, transforming them for example into forces, motions and actions.
It is the extension and the completion of mechanical systems with sensors and microcomputers which is the most important aspect. The fact that such a system picks up changes in its environment by sensors, and reacts to their signals using the appropriate information processing, makes it different from conventional machines.
Examples of mechatronic systems are robots, digitally controlled combustion engines, machine tools with self-adaptive tools, contact-free magnetic bearings, automated guided vehicles, etc. Typical for such a product is the high amount of system knowledge and software that is necessary for its design. Furthermore, and this is most essential, software has become an integral part of the product itself, necessary for its function and operation. It is fully justified to say software has become an actual "machine element".
R&R Club Technologies
Robotics is perhaps the largest component of the Club. In general, we do not buy robot kits. Instead we create own using Arduino and/or Raspberry Pi, constructing a simple chassis then mounting sensors and actuators. We write our own programs too. This encourages maximum creativity and learning. Russ has constructed several robots himself that the club can use. Their names are Violet, Wheelie, Medusa and Herman.
Speaking of robotics, check out Nigel Stanford's very cool video on robotics!
Cymatics is the study of wave phenomena and vibration. The term (Kymatiks in German), was adapted from the Greek word for wave, ta Kyma, in the1960s by Swiss medical doctor and natural scientist, Hans Jenny (1904-1972). What sounds like a very dry scientific study is truly a marvel to behold, and watching just a few seconds of Jenny’s experiments animating inert powders, pastes and liquids with audible sound frequencies, can shed much light on the mysteries of creation. At R&R we have constructed a simple laser visualizer that is driven by either voice or sounds.
Check out Nigel Stanford's cool cymatics video!