In Sydney: The Robots Came... and Went

When I first came to Melbourne, I was intrigued with public sculptures in the city, like the three business men and the dog at the corner of Collins and Swanston St, which is apparently named Larry Latrobe!
credit: http://melbourneartcritic.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/melbourne’s-public-sculpture/

I mean, sculptures makes us stop and stare admire, and think; which is what I was happy to see happen in Sydney for The Robots Are Coming exhibition (being part of the organizing team that made it happen).

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The theme of the exhibition was ‘the impact of technology in today’s society’, featuring 5 robots designed and built mainly by emerging artists.

There was GLOW, a robot that lights up. It was built by Poppy Suksomboon, a light designer who wanted to raise awareness on lighting efficiency. She picked up the television from a junk pile on the side of a road whilst driving by one day.

I managed to witness an excursion by a nearby pre-school to visit the robots, since the exhibition coincided with the letter of the week, R! The children were absolutely delighted when one of the teachers switched GLOW on.

AERO ROCK—winner of crowd favourite prize. It was built by John Sungjin Lee, a aeronautical engineer who sourced his materials from a second hand junk market. An old school projector was used for the head, apparently Wall E-inspired,and a pet cage formed most of its abdomen.

He ripped out his drawers from his study table to make the wings of the robot (just right under the shoulders)! Now that’s dedication.
John later demonstrated to us that his robot is safe to sit on.

BINBOTS, constructed from scratch by Luke Hespanhol to resemble city council bins offering flowers to passer-bys to lighten up their day.

A simple concept, but adored by many! Reasons being that it’s technology for an environmental cause, besides looking pleasingly cute.
ALICE—winner of grand prize, judged by a panel of 7 judges, consisting of journalists, art critics and engineers. Alice’s winning quality was its interactive element, inviting its audience to play with the curtain of mirrors pieces, to see oneself as a robot in the reflections; because robots are essentially a reflection of humans.

Also, one judge quoted that they could see it being a friendly display in their garden!
For the prize giving ceremony… we had it on a milk crate stage (which I slaved my back carrying it up and down the train station, borrowed them from nearby cafes)!

The Robots Are Coming was an initiative was organised by Robogals, a Australian-based, student non-profit organization that has expanded to the UK, forming 12 chapters across two continents in just 3 years. Robogals engages female school students in engineering and technology topics from a young age, with the long-term aim of increasing female enrolment in engineering, science and technology courses at universities.

In pursuit of this goal, Robogals’ primary activity is training university student volunteers in LEGO robotics and then sending them to visit primary schools to teach young girls, and to mentor teams in the FIRST LEGO League robotics competition. An important goal of the organization is not only to have a positive impact on the schools, but also to provide a rewarding experience for the dedicated university students who volunteer their time and skills to the project. Robogals has taught over 850 girls this year in Australia alone.

The organisation was set up by a group of female engineers within the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne in July 2008; stemming from a realisation by founder Marita Cheng that their faculty substantially lacked of females.

Since then, Robogals has been expanding through holding Bootcamps and Conferences.

Organised as a publicity stunt to raise awareness about Robogals, the exhibition was held from 5-11 September 2010 at Wynyard Park in Sydney, a transportation hub. We estimated that a good hundreds of thousands of pedestrians/commuters saw the robots or had lunch with them.

The exhibition is inspired by the Berlin Buddy Bears, where artists’ conceptions of bears have a dominating presence as decorative elements in the streets.

All in all, it was a good example of a rare collaboration how engineering ties into (everyday street) art.
Picture credits go to Luke Hespanhol


  1. very interesting. what are the other initiatives they have done to encourage girls to be consider engineering?

  2. Good question, tinky! thanks for alerting me to that. Check out robogals.org for more info