Science takes over the nation's capital

ROLL members on the Mall Laboratory employees John Peabody and Kenneth Cole represented ROLL at the Grand Finale Exposition of the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The USA Science & Engineering Festival, the country's first national science festival, descended on Washington, D.C. in October 2010. Representatives of the Robotics Outreach at Lincoln Laboratory (ROLL) program participated in the grand finale exposition of what aimed to be the largest multicultural, multigenerational and multidisciplinary celebration of science in the United States.

John Peabody of the Aerospace Sensor Technology Group and Kenneth Cole of the Air Defense Techniques Group arrived on the Mall early on a Saturday morning to assemble eight robots to highlight Lincoln Laboratory's Robotics Outreach in partnership with the U.S. For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program.

The exhibit demonstrated the engineering challenges that students face when participating in a FIRST competition. Visitors were able to play robot soccer with robots built from kits utilizing Lego Mindstorms and Tetrix Education parts. Each of the four robots was built with a unique type of manipulator reflected by its name: Claw, Hockey, Pinball, and Kick.

ROLL members during robotics demo The Lincoln Laboratory booth ran smoothly from start to finish; the robots operated continuously for 15 hours but were still working by the event's end.

Peabody took advantage of an opportunity to display on-the-fly programming skills by reconfiguring a robot so it could be operated by a wheelchair-bound man who could use only one hand. Among the visitors to the Laboratory's booth were Zachary Lemnios, Director of Defense Research and Engineering, and Dean Kamen, the founder of the FIRST program.

Over 850 science organizations hosted interactive exhibits, including the physics of NASCAR, the science of baseball, and the chemistry of Thanksgiving dinner. Festival attendees had opportunities to build a robot that will swim underwater, meet astronauts and Nobel laureates, touch a 1500-pound chunk of glacier from Alaska, fly the Space Shuttle via virtual reality systems, or extract DNA from strawberries.

ROLL's robotics demoThe event was bigger than the ROLL representatives expected. This first-time effort was well attended and well organized. ROLL hopes to continue attending this annual science festival.

Numerous satellite events were organized in communities across America as part of the festival. The culmination of the festival was a free, two-day fair on the National Mall that featured over 1500 hands-on science activities and over 50 stage shows and performances. The festival is a grassroots collaboration of over 500 of the nation's leading science organizations. Photo galleries and more information about the Expo on the Mall are available through


Posted November 2010

top of page