Students behind the Robotics Club at Zagreb Campus

Written by Iva Bačić, Ph.D., professor in the IT program, RIT Croatia

The Robotics club at RIT Croatia, Zagreb is a student-led club. At the very beginning, in Fall 2014, it was just an idea as students wanted to have a club with weekly meetings in order to share their passion for the fields of robotics, programming, and electrical engineering. A milestone at the beginning of the club was when Mateo Sokač, the president of the Robotics club in Zagreb, and Tino Herljević held an outstanding lecture at RIT Croatia, Zagreb during European Robotics Week 2014. The lecture covered the interesting field of sensors and their application in robotics. The first proper hands-on experience started in Fall semester 2015. On a weekly basis, the students exchange their knowledge and apply it in assembling the elements and design their own devices. An important part of their meetings are the program design where the real fun happens. As Filipe Aleixo, a third year IT student and club member stated, "Finally, the device gets a behavior." As a result of learning, knowledge exchange, weekly meetings, hard work and a lot of fun, the Robotics club designed its own weather station to measure temperature, humidity, etc., and display this information in real-time on an LCD screen. This project was developed under the code name "project Vakula."  Today, the 13 club members explore new technologies and continually evolve through finding exciting new opportunities for challenges that will enhance their programming skills, team work, and critical thinking skills. My idea, as their mentor, is to introduce the concept of the Internet of Things to the club members this semester, so they can interlink their knowledge of robotics and programming with the IoT. Let's hope this one works out well, and soon all of them redesign their homes and apartments into smart houses. If you are interested in the Robotics club, feel free to email Mateo Sokač or me as we all would love to see you join us this semester. Welcome!

Mateo Sokač, President of the Robotics club at RIT Croatia, Zagreb: "This whole robotics thing started when I got introduced to the Arduino platform. Back then I was a freshman and I did not have the knowledge necessary for following the advanced tutorials for Arduino. During my sophomore year, as I continued developing my programming skills, I started designing my own electrical circuits and I got to work on some really interesting projects. In addition, I was very lucky to have the help of Professor Iva Bačić, who was also interested in robotic and was able to answer a few of my questions. Soon enough, we decided to establish the Robotics club here at RIT Croatia. There were students who showed interest in joining the club; however, we found it very difficult to find a suitable time slot for our meetings due to the differences in our schedules. In the end, we were able to arrange a two-hour meeting once a week. The goal was to get the students familiar with the Arduino platform and to teach them the basics of electrical engineering and programming in C. I would start the meeting with a short presentation, after which the students were given practical tasks related to its topic. For our first project, we chose to make a little weather station which displayed information on its LCD screen. When we covered transistors and DC motor control, we were able to move onto more complex projects. We are currently working on building remote control cars, and after that we plan on developing a primitive AI for them, allowing them to avoid obstacles. Since RIT Croatia's IT program is heavily oriented towards web technologies and high-level programming, this is a great opportunity for students to try their hand at low-level programming languages like C/C++."

Filipe Aleixo, 3rd year IT student: "So far I have really enjoyed being a part of the robotics club at RIT Croatia. I like the technical aspects, assembling the devices, but as a more software-oriented person I really like the coding part and how that can in certain ways influence how the device behaves. So one of the best parts of the club for me is how it has introduced me to a new programming language. What I am looking forward to this semester in the club is the new stuff that should be arriving. I have spoken quite often with Mateo, the founder, and he has told me about various projects he would like to have us work on."

Patrik Đurasek, 2nd year IT student: "Since I was a kid I always wanted to create a robot, and the Robotics Club finally gave me a chance to do that. I love the fact that we work in teams on all different sorts of projects and create useful inventions. We started creating simple projects such as a LED display, using infrared sensors and later combining everything we learned to create a complete weather station. I was not familiar with the Arduino language; however, we all worked together and everyone is willing to help if you have troubles understanding something, so I had no issues getting the hang of things. The Robotics Club has definitely taught me a lot and improved both my coding skills and my creative thinking in order to solve problems. In the future of the Robotics Club I look forward to program the Arduino-powered cars, because it looks like a really fun challenge to write code for a car that would drive on its own, and hopefully compete against the other campus. As for my wishes, I hope that we get to work on drones and write some more advanced code for our robots. I hope even more people join our club, so we can even organize events on our own campus. I believe anyone who has interest in these kinds of things should join and at least try it out or just visit and see how it all works".

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