Meet the men of Robot House

The university has 15 theme houses—residences in which students who share an interest live together and offer educational programming related to the theme of their house. Here’s one of them:

Take me to your leader
Stephen Somerville ’07, Aaron Herres ’07, Benjamin Ahlvin ’08,and Ken Verhulst ’07 (L-R, in photo) are some of the brains behind Robot House. They are joined by juniors Peter McDonough, Allen Chen, and Eric Styner.

It came from Planet X
The house robot was constructed from scratch, mostly by Herres, McDonough, and Ahlvin, who were working on the project for their digital electronics course. The robot apparently likes to be in the spotlight; it’s designed to seek out the brightest light in a room and make a beeline for it.

Rage against the machine
The robot’s name, Lucy, is short for Lucifer. Ahlvin said the name was chosen partly because Lucy is a light-sensing robot, and lucifer is the Latin word for “light-bearer.” But they also named it Lucifer because the robot can be so frustrating to work on. The three had a problem building a chassis that was sturdy enough, for example, and they had little experience designing circuits.

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Ahlvin says that living in Robot House helped him get a UPS summer research grant to program a robot. He found out about the opportunity from his faculty advisor, who knew that he was interested in robots because he lived in Robot House.

Appliance of science
Robot House’s first educational event of the year was a trip to Harned Hall for the Summer Research Symposium, where summer research students displayed their work, including the robot Ahlvin programmed. Last year the house also spent an evening watching Blade Runner and discussing how robots fit into human society. This year Robot House plans more movie events and a trip to the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. — Lan Nguyen ’08