This contest is just one of many Actobotics video contests. So far, we’ve launched three successful contests and there are many more to come. Stay tuned! View past contest winners here.

Actobotics Contest Series

Steve Norris is the Principle Software Engineer at Arcadia Solutions. Mr. Norris is a software architect and developer with over 35 years of experience ranging from the design and construction of artificial intelligence systems, process knowledge management, web and graphical user interfaces to digital electronics and robotics.  Mr. Norris has worked in a wide variety of industries including aerospace, transportation, chemical, telecommunications and retail software products. He was a co-founder and Software Architect at AI Squared Inc., an MIT spinoff firm that designed and built a model-based reasoning system for the diagnosis of complex equipment such as the GE 9800 CAT scanner, Freightliner Heavy Duty Trucks and the F-16 Flight Control System. Norris started his career at Wang Laboratories and has also worked for a diverse range of companies including: Phios Corporation, Reed Elsevier, Puma Technology, IHVS – intelligent highway navigation and safety systems and WPSI – handheld diagnostic devices for the automotive and trucking industries. Mr. Norris is also a writer and contributing editor to Robot Magazine for which he writes featured articles detailing the design and construction of robot projects. Learn more about Steve’s projects: http://www.norrislabs.com/

Steve Norris

Building strength:
My primary strength is in software engineering (that’s my day job as well) followed by electronics (that’s where I started my career). I can get by with the mechanical stuff. 
Experience:
I built my first robot in 1984 – it was a Heathkit Hero-1 of which I still have and restored it to full working condition a few years back. I did not get back into robotics until 10 years ago. Now I build about 3-5 machines per year. 
Number of working bots built:
I number my robots so now I’m up to 43 in the last 10 years.
Favorite movie robot:
ED-209 from Robocop. There is a great scene where it has an epic fail during its first demo.
When robots take over the world, who do you want on your team?
When robots take over the world I would want an ED-209 with some software fixes followed by the Terminator series on my side.

Meet Adam Wolf. Adam is married and has a nine-month old son, Henry. He does a lot of embedded electronics, both for his job and for fun. Adam’s "day job" is engineering at an engineering design services company in Minneapolis. We help companies make products--usually ones with wireless in them. Most of his projects there involve Linux or Android, but each project is really different. Adam also founded Wayne and Layne with Matthew Beckler. He's a childhood friend, and after they finished their undergrads, they wanted to get their hands dirty, so Adam and Matthew started a company to make open source electronics kits. Over the years, it's morphed a bit and they do a lot of museum exhibit work. John Baichtal, Matthew Beckler, and Adam wrote a book together, Make: Lego and Arduino Projects, where we combined Lego Mindstorms and the Arduino microcontroller board. We made a bunch of robots for that book.

Adam Wolf

John Baichtal

Dave-Prochnow

Dave Prochnow

In a writing career that has spanned over 40 years, Dave Prochnow has authored 40 non-fiction books, written hundreds of magazine articles, and recently, delved into mobile app development. Dave’s prolific production has earned him some notable recognition; like being the recipient of the 2001 Maggie Award for “Best How to Article in a Consumer Magazine.” His award-winning article was based on adapting the photographic film-based Ansel Adams Zone System to digital cameras. The international attention that Dave received from this article in digitalFOTO magazine served as a springboard to other opportunities in photography.

Flushed with the success of his award-winning article and feeling the need for more of an educational emphasis on photography as an artistic medium, Dave created an instant photography coursework that challenged 4th - 6th grade students to “develop” images inside their “mind’s eye” before they pressed the shutter button. Firmly established in photography, Dave branched out into the exhibition arena. His one-man exhibition, “No Man, 2010,” featured photographic prints that were created from incredibly long exposure values. These lengthy exposures resulted in images that blurred the passing of cars, the movement of people, and, in general, halted the natural “pulse” of life that we commonly see with our eyes.

As a gadget builder and robot experimenter, Dave has built a strong portfolio of high-profile builds while serving as the lead project builder with Popular Science magazine. For over ten years, Dave’s projects from Light Beer to Office Cubicle Defender, have served as a stimulus for making DIY project building accessible to budding builders of all ages. Furthermore, his work with SERVO Magazine enabled Dave to become “Professor Prochnow” and teach kids how to build their first robot.

Building strength:
My strength, by far, is programming and communications. I'm not particularly great at mechanical design, but I'm getting better. Regardless, I'm pretty good at figuring out the minimum I need to get things to work.
Experience:
I have been big into embedded electronics for about 8 years, and I have been doing robotics projects for about half of that time.
Number of working bots built:
Over the years, I've probably built ten working robotics projects, for various definitions of the word "working"!
Favorite movie robot:
Right now, my favorite movie robot is Baymax, from Big Hero Six.
When robots take over the world, who do you want on your team?
When robots take over the world, I'd really like Baymax on my team--a robot devoted to my health and happiness would be a nice change from ones where I end up scraping my knuckles or ones that malfunction and squirt chocolate milk all over the ceiling. I wouldn't mind having a robot that could find parts or clean my shop, either!

Building strength:
As demonstrated by many of my projects for PopSci, I am very adept at taking dissimilar things and transforming them into viable working products. One problem that has always plagued these projects, however, is locating a high quality, integrated, resilient building substrate. With the advent of the Actobotics product line, this former problem has now become my new building strength.
Experience:
 I have over 50 years of experience with designing and building robots. Ironically, one of my very early “robots” was a large humanoid-like critter that was sourced from Erector set parts. Fast forward to today, and my latest creation is a simulation of a grasshopper’s metameric ganglion, dubbed a Microcerebrum, built from Actobotics products. So I guess that I must like metal robots.
Number of working bots built:
I have built well over 200+ robots and my family hates me for it. Ha! Seriously, many of my robots will go through several variations or iterations before the final build is complete. So that build number is not as fantastic as it sounds; but my family still hates it. Double ha!
Favorite movie robot:
Number one on my list is the constant gardening trio from Silent Running Huey, Dewey, and Louie followed closely at second place by Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still (the 1951 original, of course).
When robots take over the world, who do you want on your team?
You know what; they have taken over the world...from assembly lines, to automobiles, to our homes--robots are everywhere. Nonetheless, my dream team of robots would include the Neato vac (gee, it’s got built-in LiDAR for crying out loud), Nest and Hue home comfort controls, the iRobot gutter cleaner, Looj, Robomow lawn mower from Friendly Robotics, and my fave comic little dancing clown with a flatulence problem, WowWee’s RoboSapien.

Building strength:
I'm definitely a hardware guy--when I get the robot done, I want to start on the next one, not futzing around with code!
Experience:
I've been getting paid to build robots since 2009. I did it for free pretty much my entire life before that.
Number of working bots built:
A whole bunch of... oh wait, WORKING projects? 20-30 or so.
Favorite movie robot:
R2-D2, the Wall-E of the '70s. He could fix stuff, was smart and loyal, and was a robot of few words.
When robots take over the world, who do you want on your team?
Fierce but kindly guardian robots that would not see me as being a useless organic. They would all be expert chefs

Nick Poole

Building strength:
There's a concept, in management, known as the "T-shaped skillset". Which is to say that a person specializes in one particular area but is knowledgeable in a wide number of disciplines... My skillset is, honestly, shaped more like "~~~~~~". I don't have a deep specialization but I can do a little of just about anything.
Experience:
I've been building robots as a hobby on and off for maybe a decade?
Number of working bots built:
10 to 20, maybe more depending on your definition of Robotics. But I'd say that's how many things I've built that someone would look at and say "Hey! A Robot!" (Or "Oh No! A Robot!")
Favorite movie robot:
This is such a tough call... I really liked Evolver... even though it was the 'bad guy' in that movie. I just love the "Oh no, we put military AI in a children's toy and now it's an unstoppable killing machine" trope. Then again, Gigolo Joe from A.I. is a great robot, in the android sense. In the end, though, I have to give it to the Smart tanks of the Ghost In The Shell universe: The Tachikoma, Fuchikoma and Logicoma.
When robots take over the world, who do you want on your team?
Probably any robot involved in food production and manufacturing... but that's a boring answer so... I'd probably want to hang out with anything designed by Festo or Boston Dynamics.

Nick-Poole
Adam-Wolf-Profile
John-Baichtal-Profile
Steve-Norris-profile
Actobotics-Expert-Contest-Home-Automation-Challenge
Meet-the-Expert-Builders

John Baichtal has written or edited over a dozen books, including the award-winning Cult of Lego (2011 No Starch Press), LEGO hacker bible Make: LEGO and Arduino Projects (2012 Maker Media) with Adam Wolf and Matthew Beckler, Robot Builder (Que 2014) and Basic Robot Building with LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 (Que 2012), as well as Building Your Own Drones (forthcoming from Que). His most recent book is Maker Pro (Maker Media 2014), a collection of essays and interviews describing life as a professional maker. John lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children.

Nick Poole bills himself as a Professional Maker and Jack of all trades. Working as the Creative Technologist and ElectriCute co-host for SparkFun Electronics, he exercises his skills as a roboticist, programmer, artist, designer and fabricator to create unique experiences and inspire invention. He lives in Boulder in his studio workshop where he can usually be found getting his hands dirty. His exploits include living in a homemade truck camper for a year, building a coffee table sized Jansen robot and hurting himself running around the office on stilts. Stay up to date with his latest hijinks on SparkFun Electronics' YouTube channel!

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Congratulations to Adam Wolf - the winning Expert!

Nick’s “Moco” Coffee Robot

WINNER! Adam’s “LaundroBot”

Steve’s “Otto-Bar”

Dave’s “Acto-Whorl-a-Matic” Leaf Grinder

John’s “DrinkBot”

The votes are in and Adam’s LaundroBot” took the win! There must be a lot of you that loath traipsing to the basement to switch wash cycles. His design helped automate a mundane household task and made his wife happy, everyone wins! Way to go, Adam. Adam has requested we donate $1,000 to Leonardo’s basement, a creative learning environment in Minneapolis, MN for kids of all ages. A check is on the way!

Also, a HUGE shout out to all of the experts who dreamt, designed, and built for this challenge. They spent many hours working on their cool projects, and we appreciate them greatly. If you haven’t had the chance to see the sweet builds below, take a minute to do so...it will surely spark your interest for automating your house using Actobotics!

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