PSU’s Dr Perkowski strikes again: “LEGOs for adults.”

Dr. Perkowski love robots. And he wants you to love them, too. Photo by Jinyi Qi of the PSU Vanguard.


arek Perkowski is a professor at Portland State University, and has gotten our attention before for his impressive show of dedication in teaching “Quantum Robotics Sunday School” to high school students.

This time, he’s gotten our attention because of another catchy name he’s come up with: LEGOs for adults. He said that you can find all the parts you need to build a real robot at a local hardware store.

To be a better robot performer, this one wears a Korean theater mask. Photo by Jinyi Qi of the PSU Vanguard.

A PSU journalist spoke with the professor, who explained his idea. He was doing a presentation on what he calls “Portland Cyber Theatre,” which in his own words is an “initiative to build the first complete interactive theatre of humanoid robots.”

Sound awesome? It is: check out this video of Japanese cyber theater (English supertitles behind the stage). The pace is kind of slow (some types of Japanese theater are just like that.) But remember that these robots perform all choreography and lines on their own—they’re responding fluidly to the live actors onstage.

What Professor Perkowski has been doing is a little different. Rather than just making a robot that can respond correctly with pre-determined choreography and lines, he wants to make a robot which can actually interact dramatically on its own. You don’t program them, you teach them,” he said.

He believes that robots are “great adventures.” As such, they’re a good gateway into the world of logic and programming, because you can actually see your work embodied. And that’s awesome.

Here’s what we mean:

Construction of the Korean-mask robot.

Read on:

Oregon College Application Week, 2012.


enior year of high school can be pretty crazy. Pretty scary, for some people. And one of the biggest stressors is the pressure to apply for college. Where should you apply? How will you pay for it? What should you major in? Aren’t the deadlines tough?

And you know, applying for college can be pretty confusing and, therefore, discouraging. This is actually a major reason a lot of people your age wind up not applying.

Oregon CAW helps students around the state figure out the process of applying for college.

If you’re getting discouraged as you try to apply for college, or even if you’re getting discouraged just thinking about it, you’re lucky to be in Oregon—where we have a whole week dedicated to helping you take control of college applications. It’s called Oregon College Application Week. And while the name isn’t very catchy, it does turn into CAW, which is cool.

Name aside, CAW is going to be super helpful to anyone who even wants to go to college. At CAW, you’ll get access to helpful resources to find a college which is a good match for your interests, advice on how to pick a major (hint: you don’t need to know right off the bat) and, of course, help actually filling out your college application!

Check out this list of pilot sites for the 2012 Oregon CAW.

You can also look at this map, which has all 8 of the locations listed. Find the one closest to you and see if you can make it!


Read on:

Link Dump 7/13

Today we’re just going to go straight to some of the greatest CS and engineering links on the internet:

  • These gloves were engineered to translate sign-language into text and voice.
  • One blog we like, “Coding In My Sleep,” posted about the famous new Ouya videogame console which runs Android OS.
  • Stephen Hawking, a famous scientist, has enlisted engineers to design a machine to read his mind so he can continue to communicate.

    On July 10th, Nikola Tesla had his 156th birthday. He was an under-acknowledged Austrian-American electrical and mechanical engineer. He invented the AC current, which is used everywhere as it’s much safer than DC. He worked for Thomas Edison, whose name you probably know much better. Edison is said to have stolen a lot of Tesla’s work. Learn more about Tesla at

  • Learn about SSL certificates, a commonly-used form of data encryption, because they’re really secure.
  • Watch an awesome video of an internal-combustion engine being completely dismantled, cleaned, and reassembled.
  • Meet Jeri Ellsworth, a self-taught engineer who uploads her DIY videos on YouTube. She has some fun DIY projects uploaded!
  • Read about a wind-powered vehicle which can travel both upwind and downwind, faster than the speed of the wind which powers it!
  • Stephen Hawking is testing a device which will read his mind, as his ALS slowly consumes his nervous system.

How to live in the open world.


heck out this video about what the future of the world might be like, with an open internet. An open internet means open ideas, and the free sharing of ideas, with the intent of spreading knowledge to everyone.

Listening to his story starting at 9:54, about the Tunisian revolution,
and how the internet was creatively used by civilians,
shows the real power of the internet. 

We like to remind you that we don’t support breaking piracy, or breaking the law. At all. Illegal = bad, folks.

Here's what one version of Linux looks like. Pretty classy! Also remember that the Android smartphone OS is Linux-based.

But we strongly believe in the openness of information for the betterment of humankind. We believe in freedom, one of the principles the U.S. was founded on. Read about Ben Franklin’s stance on patents, the pieces of law which declare that someone ‘owns’ any given idea.

This is why GetReal so supports free and open software, such as the Linux operating system, and programming languages like Python. If you want to get connected with other people using Linux, or other people programming with Python, give Internet Relay Chat (IRC) a shot. And dive into the world of open-source programming…

…where any idea can be created by one, and then improved by anyone.

Turing turns 100; time for you to take the reins


lan Turing is widely considered to be the father of computer science in many ways. In a nutshell, Turing laid the foundations of computer science in the 30s and 40s, for the future to build upon. He did this by doing a lot of work with artificial intelligence, and formalizing the idea of an algorithm, something which is absolutely integral to computer science as we know it.

Stare into the eyes of the late Alan Turing. The Turing Test, named after him, is a test that determines whether AI is any good.

And they have. It’s 59 years after he died, and since then computer scientists have developed new concepts such as object-oriented programming, which most large-scale programs today use. But even that’s an old concept, having gotten popular in the 80s and 90s.

Now it’s your turn to develop the next big CS concepts, or at least work with those new concepts as you code on the technological frontier. As computers get more and more powerful, the need for equally powerful programmers  gets even bigger.

If you like solving tough problems methodically and tenaciously, and like puzzles or systems or patterns, consider taking an intro to CS class your freshman year. If you like it, consider making it your major.

Read on:

OSU Students have some great senior engineering projects

The platform on top of that RC car is a "collision mitigation platform," to safe the car itself during a wreck.


very year, senior-year engineering students work on a huge project and show it off to the world before they graduate. All of them are interesting and unique projects, and are meant to demonstrate that you have come far enough in your education to actually do something awesome.

Here are a couple we think deserve your attention, which show the wide range of subjects you can cover in your senior project.

You've seen these before; it's a solar powered steam generator. The curved mirrors reflect the sun's light straight onto the tube, which boils water inside and creates enough pressure to move a turbine.

(Sorry, no picture for this one)—The “Walk on the Wildside” smartphone app was made by three computer science majors and it gives a virtual, self-guided tour of the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center, which is near Grant’s Pass down at the South end of the state. According to one of its makers, it can show you around the center, tell you about the animals there, and tell you about what Wildlife Images (the group) does. Check out the app’s Google Play page.

But don’t forget about other universities! Read about how some PSU engineering students won the world’s first Cornell Cup USA.

Engineer what you can imagine at PSU


he idea behind ZeroN, the magnetic 3d tracking system, makes you think of all the things it could be used for. They show a few in the video, but we think this may be a clever idea for a 3d computer mouse. Check it out.

As it is, this idea doesn’t bring much new to the table.
Still, experimental research like this helps people down the road, who need
to use similar technology to do something in the real world.
Plus, experimentation is pretty awesome.

But do you know what we think is really cool? You don’t have to go to MIT for awesome opportunities like this. In fact, PSU’s engineering college, called the “Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science,” offers a really great experience.

And they’ve got the reputation to prove it, too. Four PSU seniors just won $10,000, beating colleges like UC Berkeley and MIT, at the world’s first Cornell Cup USA, an electrical engineering competition.

Read on: