Robotics and hardware at The LAB Miami

Once a month, a group of technology professionals, entrepreneurs and students meet to discuss different topics related to technology or entrepreneurship. This group is called Refresh Miami, a not for profit group dedicated to providing “educational content focused on the technological and entrepreneurial communities.” A Refresh Miami event recently passed, focusing on “Hardware Hacking and Robotics.”

Despite not having any experience with such technology, it was a safe bet to go to the event, since the presentations would be geared towards those who’ve never dealt in that field before. The event was held at The LAB Miami in Wynwood, a coworking space geared to those in the entrepreneurial and tech community.

At the event I saw many familiar faces from previous tech scene outings, such as SuperConf and UHack. I caught up with those who I had met before, and met some new people at the event. After everyone enjoyed some free food and drinks, the presentations finally began. Since the presentations were geared towards working with hardware and robotics, all the presentations had something physical to show the audience, whether it was LED lights hooked up to a device, a Raspberry Pi (a “credit card sized computer”,) or a robot prototype.

To introduce the idea of “hardware hacking,” two members from MakeSpace-Miami demonstrated examples how hardware hacking works. They introduced to the audience a device with LED lights that changed colors based on music, which only required a few lines of code to implement. Following the introductory presentation from MakeSpace, Willie Avendeno went further into using hardware, with his work combining hardware, art and music. Using a Raspberry Pi, Willie was able to create a full album of music as well as create art using the small device.

Students and faculty from the FIU Discovery Lab finished off the hardware presentations as they discussed the work being done at the Discovery Lab, along with demonstrating one of their prototypes. The prototype shown at the event was a robot that was controlled using the users movements and vision. The future of that project is to create a mobile robotic unit controlled remotely via motion capture and VR.

The Discovery Lab team demonstrated how the robot can currently move its arms using input from Microsoft’s Kinect sensor, as well as moving its head using a VR headset. At the end of the presentations, Peter Martinez, a co-director of RefreshMiami, added to the presentations by demonstrating the ease of operating a device such as a Raspberry Pi, even for those with little to no programming experience.

The presentations then came to a close, opening up a networking opportunity for those at the event. The next RefreshMiami event will be held on April 25 at the Miami Science Museum, focusing on Lean Startups. Those interested in future RefreshMiami events, as well as getting involved with the local tech and entrepreneurial scene, are urged to check out or request to join the RefreshMiami Facebook page.

About the Author

Luis Bolaños
: webmaster, avid techie, majoring in Information Technology and Digital Media Studies, likes video games and writing about them too.