Robots Can Dance! Interview with Jason Berry from Waterford Institute of Technology

Posted by openPicus | On: Sep 24 2012
Few weeks ago, we discovered BENGiE, thanks to Cathal Deehy-Power one of the folks from our amazing community that told us he was using a Flyport to add Wi-Fi controls to the robot. The more we dug into BENGiE the more the project was getting interesting, especially since this project embodies very well the implementation of the hacking and building mindset in the teaching context.

BENGiE, in fact, is used by the WIT (Waterford Institute of Technology) a university level college, in the southeast of Ireland, which provides opportunities for students in all disciplines and levels, from technician to PHd level.

Soon we decided to reach out to Jason Berry, lecturer in Electronics in WIT’s Engineering Technology Department who particular deals with embedded systems, software, robotics, team based learning and outreach. Jason works inside a great team of electronics , maths, science and business lecturers that all contribute to our students learning experience.

He teams up with other great lecturers Martin Hayes, Siobhan Wall and John Vance who are the project mentors for the flagship student project BENGiE.

Here follows an interesting short interview of Jason that covers the teaching methodology used and can be inspirational to many institutions. Have a read!

[openpicus] Ciao Jason! as you know we were astonished of BENGiE project! What’s your learning methodology like? We have been impressed by the hacking inspiration as well a the role of experimentation.

[Jason Berry] We are great believers in project based learning, this is where the core materials learned in the modules are applied and reinforced. This applied learning experience replicates the way we learn as engineers in the real world, which includes hacking and experimentation.

Once a solid understanding of fundamentals exist, hacking and experimentation helps to build a quiet confidence.

All engineers will remember that moment when they got some bit of Hardware/Software to work for the first time, something new, they figured out for themselves. This is one of the key eureka moments.

When you realise that its just a matter of time and work before you figure out how the next bit of the project works…..the next bit of how any project works.

This is when you get this quite confidence, which you keep building the more projects you work on.

Note: For any students reading this that are still waiting for this eureka moment to come, do not worry. Keep working at the fundamentals you are accumulating in your classes and do as much project, hacking, prototyping, fiddling as you can..and this eureka moment will find you soon.

Also were possible team based projects are implemented, again this is how our students engineers will work when they leave WIT.

[openpicus] Could you tell is a bit more of BENGiE project?

[Jason Berry] BENGiE is Robot built entirely by undergraduates students here at WIT. Name is abbreviation of course name that students study on, Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics. This is our second BENGiE, we started this version 3 years ago.

Basically a collection of Pic microntrollers communicating on a CAN Bus. Each student is responsible for a function, Speech, Motors, Arms, Vision systems etc.

This year Cathal and John added wifi web server using the cool openpicus module.

Technically covers all the bases you would require for a undergraduate embedded system project..

Schematic Capture, PCB Design, Embedded Software(mainly C), HTML, Digital Inputs, Digital Outputs, Analog Inputs, Analog Outputs, PWM, SPI, I2C, RS232, RS485, Zigbee, Bluetooth…WiFi, Ethernet, Vision systems , Networking etc.

Lots of projects have this kind of functionality, what makes this one a bit special, is the fact that student have to collaborate together to get it to work.

Really reinforces that two heads are better than one.

All this effort and technology combines to create this cool and fun ROBOT which brings a smile to everybody that interacts with it.

[openpicus] Also From your favourable point of view, what can we expect from electronics in the upcoming years?

[Jason Berry] Internet of things massive, free access to WWW, and assisted living.

[openpicus] What are the most interesting projects you are working on these days as a department?

[Jason Berry] Telepressence Robots, Air Fish Bowl (openpicus on this one!!!! watch this space), outreach robots.

[openpicus] Would you give us your opinion about the Flyport family?

[Jason Berry] Excellent suite of hardware and software. John spotted this a couple of years ago and introduced it into the BENGiE project. Nice IDE, good template code.

Students can go from opening the box to working proof of concept in hours!!! cant ask for better than that. Only limitation is the engineers imagination. So please keep up the excellent work and thanks a million for a brilliant solution.

Thanks Jason! we are so proud that openPicus Flyport hardware is being used for these amazing and empowering projects: also your kind words on the product quality and learning curve are exactly what makes us proud of our work everyday.
Everybody out there using openPicus hardware: please reach out for interviews and enjoy the Community Projects section of our new Wiki! 

Stay tuned for updates, follow us on twitter! @openpicus 


  1. Alex Mick says:

    I want to check all the good information available here but alas! Time is very limited for this as I’m very busy in work these days. I hope to check out all the information in free time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    thanks for sharing.

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