Peacebots Picket Robotic Violence
Bryn Mawr College (10/25/07)

A group of robotic students from Bryn Mawr College programmed robots to protest the “Robot Conflict,” the robot fights that were taking place as part of Robot Day, sponsored by the Northeast Robotics Club. The protesting robots, which were programmed by four students in an introductory computer science course, carried signs such as “Make Code Not War,” and “Extendable Arms Are for Hugging.”

The protest was done partially in fun, but also to raise awareness for some important issues. The robot fights were intended to get young attendees interest in robotics, but Bryn Mawr associate professor of computer science Doug Blank, who taught the class that programmed the protestor robots, says the fights do little to attract young women to the field.

“This kind of event appeals to a specific demographic,” Blank says. “I think that using this as a community-outreach activity just tends to perpetuate the current situation in science and technology fields.” Rebecca Rebhuhn-Glanz, a first-year student who programmed a robot for the protest, says the fights were interesting, but probably not the best way to attract young people to the field.

“If I were designing a robot, that’s not what it would be doing,” she says. “We had one of our robots drawing, and I think we reached more of the little kids with that.” Blank says that violence also does not make a very good pedagogical tool. “I think there are better ways to get kids involved in engineering, and to get more kids involved in technology,” he says.