At the end of July 2016, a few of us at Griffith Univesity sat down and discussed our opinions on how our project for the Droid Racing Challenge went. One of the issues we found was that members found that there was no real pathway into being able to confidently contribute in a meaningful way. In this session, we threw ideas around on what sort of things would help, what was possible and we realised that, as a group, we had an interesting collection of specialities and knowledge. The question soon turned to: what would happen if we locked a whole bunch of students in a room together and gave them tools and resources to make things? And so this is where Griffith Innovate started.
At Griffith University, we've seen a lot of start-up and entrepreneurial interest groups come and go with varying levels of success but we saw something that was missing from this ecosystem. We like to tinker. We're not entrepreneurs with an prototype wanting to know how we can get to the next level of funding for a venture. We're a bunch of ICT, multimedia and engineering people who like to make things and approach existing products or solutions with "wouldn't it be cool if we added this...?" Or perhaps we see an existing problem and want to have a shot at fixing it. Or maybe there is no problem and there is no product but we just want to make something for the hell of it.
After the Droid Racer Challenge, we ended up just hanging out and (perhaps) overstaying our welcome but that group became larger and ended up mentoring other students or helping each other out with their areas of expertise. It evolved into a collaborative environment where we could throw ideas around and hack things up together, or just chat and help each other's homework. Meanwhile, Cailen and I looked at options to set up a framework to archive and share our knowledge with other students and establish a common space for groups to work on projects and collaborate with our academic and industry partners. In order to do this, we've started workshops with specific short term goals where each set of workshops should aim to start and accomplish its goals within 8 hours. We've also created this website where we intend to archive and share our workshops.
During the last four weeks of Trimester 2, we held four 2hr workshops that aimed to allow students to learn how to program a autonomous droid for avoiding obstacles. Being our first workshops, it was a lot of touch-and-go to see what we could accomplish in 8 hours. The answer was: quite a lot. The workshops are designed to achieve something by the end and also lay the first milestone to contributing to our autonomous droid and drone projects. Knowing how the motor controls, bluetooth and serial bus work on the Arduino is one of the fundamental aspects of our cars. With the success of our workshops, we are now in collaboration with the Australian Robotics Association in hosting the Object Avoidance Challenge for the 2017 Australian Robotics Challenge. For the past few weeks, we have been visiting high schools and running workshops to get students to writing their own code for our object avoidance course.
For Trimester 3, we have Matthew Bourgeois and Matthew Lee tutoring our machine learning workshops to introduce people to their first neural networks. Learn how machines can understand handwriting and data. Learn how you could use this in your own projects, the next GovHack or just see how you can contribute to our new eHealth and machine learning project. Remember to have a look at our upcoming Machine Learning Workshops!
So what is Griffith Innovate? For students, it's a great way to meet more people that like to make things, free tutorials and access to knowledge on things you want to know about, a network to recruit software developers, graphic designers, engineers or database/software engineers for your next project, or a way to enter into honours or post-graduate research by contributing to our projects. For our industry partners, we're a conduit for networking between potential interns or part-time employees, collaborative projects and a unique testing ground for risky ideas. For academics, we're a hub of practical experience that can aid or advise in the development of the tools for your research. Our members are closely affliated with developing the systems and software for various research projects in machine learning, big data, ehealth, machine vision and robotics.
Griffith Innovate is open to anyone interested in making something or learning computer science and it's affiliated fields. If you're wonder what we're like, press play or come in and see for yourself!