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Michael Bastoni

Click here for Michael's Interviews and Photos!

¨  What is the best aluminum alloy for BattleBots IQ bots?
¨
  Wanting to teach with tools, but with no previous "shop" experience
¨
  Safety concerns for young children of robotics kits with soldering component
¨
  You consider yourself a Robot Revolutionary, what is that?
¨
  What is rocket golf?
¨
  Do you play any sports?
¨
  What is your favorite color?  Why?
¨
  What is your favorite movie?  Why?
¨
  Do you play any musical instruments?
¨  Can you name a few types of the 10,000 types of wedges?

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QUESTION:
How does 1/4 inch aluminum plate do in the BattleBots IQ competition?

ANSWER from Michael Bastoni on 18 February 2003:
Aluminum is a great material.  1/4" plate 6061 T-6 alloy is particularly suitable for building fighting robots.  It is similar in density to Polycarbonate.  Aluminum is not as tough as Polycarbonate.  That is to say if you whack aluminum it will deform... permanently.  Polycarbonate can absorb considerable energy without permanently deforming.

6061 T-6 aluminum welds beautifully and machines well also.  6061 T-6 cannot be bent!  It will fracture.  It is a very hard aluminum alloy.  Aluminum can be cut with a table saw.  Use a carbide tipped 80 tooth triple chip blade with 0 rake angle, or even better a negative 2-4 degree rake angle.  Any decent industrial tool shop will have one in stock.

All in all, aluminum is a great choice.  Easy to work with, light, machinable, weldable, fairly tough, fairly hard, fairly light, fairly inexpensive... an ideal compromise between steel and titanium.

Did you know one of the common titanium alloys is aluminum?

We use lots and lots of 1/4" 6061 T-6 plate in our designs.  It makes decent armor, and great motor mounts and chassis components.

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QUESTION:
How does a teacher with no background using "shop" equipment become competent to work with kids using "real" tools?  Quite frankly... glue guns make me nervous!  I'd be a wreck with a soldering iron!!

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 15 November 2002:
Learning is the (only) point of all of this so you SHOULD be doing things you have not done before... show the kids how to learn to do things that you don't know how to do... go buy a glue gun... use it with respect... learn about it... share what you've learned with others.  Same with a soldering iron, a robot or a space ship.  Be the one to write the book for others and always recognize there is risk... and be assured that patience, respect and careful consideration will help reduce the risk.

I knew nothing about building robots 10 years ago... 15 years before that I wanted to start a construction company... and I had never built a house... or much more than some occasional furniture pieces.  But I bought a book, made a contract to build a house and honored the contract, and it was hard, and I had to hire people who knew what to do and I had to be (we should always be) humble and learn from them.  It was the greatest experience.

Nothing worthy of effort is achieved without willingly managing risk.  As a teacher, I think of Christa McAuliffe and realize that sometimes things will go wrong... really wrong.

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QUESTION:
I am interested in starting a robotics unit using robot kits that require some soldering.  However, my students are 3rd-5th graders.  I have twenty students in my class.  I have safety concerns and was wondering if you have any experience working with this age group.

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 14 November 2002:
About 9 years ago I began assembling robot kits that required soldering, gear set choices, decisions about motors, chain lengths, etc.  This robot building activity was wildly popular with my 9-12 grade students.  So much so that some of my students and I started a robot science and engineering summer program for younger kids.

Note: Gearscamp.com no longer exists.  The company is now Gears Educational Systems LLC and we manufacture robot kits for junior and senior high school technology and engineering programs.

We had kids from grades 4, 5, 6 and 7 attend our camps.  The short answer to your question is yes, they can do what is necessary but there are some caveats.

1.) Younger children require more supervision and assistance.  These kids are capable of completing sophisticated assemblies but they require proportionately more teacher/counselor input.

2.) Younger children are not always as aware of the potential hazards involved in many assembly tasks such as soldering and wiring circuits.  Again, they require closer management.  As you know, solder melts at dangerously high temperatures and no one wants to see an unsuspecting child get hurt.

In order to ensure close supervision we arranged children in teams of two and three, and we provided enough oversight (1 counselor per 2 teams) to ensure that the children always had immediate access to help and support.

Over the life of Gearscamp we learned that young children are capable of astounding success and achievement when they are provided with the opportunities to succeed and achieve... not a new discovery to be sure... but one that is always welcomed.

Good luck in your efforts to empower the "Little ones".

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QUESTION:
You consider yourself a Robot Revolutionary, what is that?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
I use robots as a loose metaphor for a new way to "Do" school and learning, and I want to help revolutionize the way we "Do" school.  I really think if we all work at it, school could get a lot more interesting for a lot more people.  Here is a
picture of my students' current project, a Hover craft!  This is an example of what I mean by making school.... cool.

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QUESTION:
What is rocket golf?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Rocket golf is a very cool activity in which kids use science, math and computer simulations to build and land model rockets in a waste paper basket from across the soccer field (over 250 ft away)!  Here is a
picture of me with my class and the rocket launching system we made.  We used an old surveying transit in order to establish accurate altitude and azimuth angles.  We use a computer simulation to check our calculations.

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QUESTION:
Do you play any sports?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Team sports... yeah BattleBots!

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QUESTION:
What is your favorite color?  Why?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Red....because it makes girls look great!

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QUESTION:
What is your favorite movie?  Why?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Stanley Kubrick's, 2001 Space Odyssey.  Many reasons.  George Trunbull, who was the father of what has become Hollywood FX, did the special effects.  They are still pretty cool to watch.  Also, Kubrick provided us with a 3-minute visual account of 5 million years of human evolution... brilliant scene where the ape learns to use tools.  I liked the character, Hal... the mutinous computer.

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QUESTION:
Do you play any musical instruments?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Yeah, but not well at all.

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QUESTION:
Can you name a few types of the 10,000 types of wedges?

ANSWER from Mike Bastoni on 10 October 2002:
Stairs, handicap ramps, screwdrivers, knife blades, rocket nose cones, shoe horn, ski jump, axe, door latch, door stop.... can you name a few dozen more?

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Last Updated:
8 May 2003
 

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