OTRONICON 2009 – Moments to remember – Part 1

OTRONICON v.4.0 (2009) – Moments to remember
Part 1: Robots,
Simulation, Racing & StormTroopers

OTRONICON is a great event to start the new year with. In its fourth year, the Orlando Science Center and Full Sail University did have new things to show us, even one you may have never heard of before. Have you heard about a Halo-themed wedding before? I’ll talk some more about it later, but for now, let’s see what OTRONICON had to offer us this year.

Orlando Science Center

Orlando Science Center

Many of the interesting exhibits made a comeback this year at OTRONICON. In case you did not know, the Central Florida area is well-known as one of the main places for simulation and training of all types of things. When it’s about dealing with automobiles (à la NASCAR), tanks and everything military, airforce and marines, Central Florida is there. We’ve got the University of Central Florida, NASA, Lockheed Martin and many others here.

For kids and teens interested in engineering, science, tech and math, there were computers that demonstrated how to control a robot before making use of actual ones. Over half a dozen of computers were used by kids and their parents about the simulation of controlling robots. The actual robots at the event were controlled by teens representing FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) who use them in competitions that combine science and sports. Being a member of a FIRST team not only provides advanced knowledge in those subjects, it also provides self-confidence and teamwork. Check out www.usfirst.org for more info.

FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology

The people at UCF Institute for Simulation and Training (IST) even brought fun into the sim arena by demonstrating four simple, quick games similar to the ones you’ll see on a Wii. The games were demoed by graduate-level students working on their MSs and PhDs in different fields. The one game I had the most fun with was one in which players had to use Jedi-sword-looking device in order to “slalom through a course of gates embedded in the Jupiter-Mars asteroid belt”. The game “SpaceGates” requires the actual movement of the player’s whole body. Gamers score a point by moving the device through each highlighted gate within a specific area, but can also lose points if they back up through that same gate. The trick is to move the device to the location of another gate instead of backing up to the previous position in order to lose a point by returning through. If you’ve used a sword before and know fencing, you can surely do well next time you get a chance to play it. Take a look at the following pictures and videos of the games. Besides the fun factor of the game, “SpaceGates” was designed for other useful purposes. It can be used for physical skills such as aerobic workouts and therapy treatments.

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A very entertaining section at OTRONICON was the combat mission simulator from the young ladies at Hard Knocks. With the use of combat weapon replicas connected to vests that sends wireless signals, the war combat simulator turned out to be lots of fun. It’s like paintball, but without the pain(t). There are a variety of simulated weapons to choose from, and it’s safe for everyone to play. One special moment was a father-and-son team against another team. What was out of the ordinary as well was that the dad works as a real Orlando policeman. I had to take a picture of them, and so I did. Everyone who attended OTRONICON must have tried this one at least one.

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Father and son playing Hard Knocks Orlando's combat simulation game at OSC

Father and son playing Hard Knocks Orlando's combat simulation game at Orlando Science Center

Another cool jeuvideo was the racing game “Stunt Racer.” It was a great entertaining simulation experience. You sit in what looks like an actual driver’s seat (without the roof) and you are set to go. In the game, you select your level of difficulty by driving into the path of your choice. Knowledge of physics will give you an adavantage if you dare to drive as an expert. This game is not a NASCAR one, but it’s a combination of simulated racing with out-of-this-world tracks. You have to try it. Other simulation attractions at the event consisted of PC army combat and flight simulation games, and a virtual combat shooting practice.

While people were walking around different areas of OSC, they got to see some members of the 501st Stormtrooper Brigade from Star Wars. They did not talk much. They did not need to. They were very fun to be with, especially with kids who wanted pictures with them while their parents were “detained.” At the Hurricane simulator, they made lots of kids (and grown-ups) laugh outloud. Even one media in particular had all its members try it. One of them had long hair. Watch his hair go wild while inside the hurricane simulator.

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