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:

PSU’s Dr Perkowski teaches high school students too — “Sunday School on Quantum Robotics”

College professors are already pretty classy. I mean, there aren’t many people who you call ‘professor.’ In fact, most titles are just two syllables. Professor is three, which makes them one syllable classier than any other title of people (except for ’emperor,’ maybe).

But it takes a special breed of professor to go outside of their university and actually touch the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong–universities are wonderful and productive and we get a lot of knowledge from them, but they’re also islands, in that a lot of university people keep themselves to universities and other university people.

He seems sort of like Gandalf except, you know, real. And with electrical engineering. Point being he seems like a cool guy!

There’s a professor at PSU named Dr. Marek Perkowski who steps out into the rest of the world, and really gets involved. He must just love teaching, because one of the things he does is teach an informal class for teenage students called “Sunday School on Quantum Robotics.” And there’s nothing about the name of that class that isn’t cool (to be clear, quantum robotics isn’t that corny TV show, Quantum Leap).

At this school he’s found some really inspiring kids, four of whom have gone on to win some prestigious awards. And they’re still not even in college! Arushi Raghuvanshi, Yushi Wang, Sidharth Dhawan and Edison Tsai collectively “won multiple awards in science fairs, created new quantum circuit synthesis algorithms to surpass the best previously existing ones, built an intelligent robot controlled by a simulated quantum circuit, and some went as far as meeting with President Obama and being mentioned by name in his speech he gave at Intel in Beaverton.”

Dr. Perkowski himself is from Poland, where he got a Masters degree in both Mathematics and Electronics, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science (called “Automatics” in Poland). It’s really cool that a guy with a background like that takes the time to teach younger folks. He really wants to foster interest in his engineering.

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