By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Abi Hodson is promoting robotics in a big way.
Hodson, 18, lives in Brandon and is a senior at the Michigan Connections Academey, and since she was in middle school, she has been on a robotics team in Flint.
“All through middle and high school, I as on the high school robotics team, so this is my last year on the robotics team,” she said. “And I’ve been doing outreach through robotics to encourage young people to join robotics.”
The teams she has been on are both based in Flint, FRC#5774 and FRC#322. And with the skills she learned in robotics, she combined it with her other hobby of costume making to create moveable costumes that she uses for promotion and outreach.
“Before COVID, my family and I were doing maker fares and doing like leather work and metal embossing, and it’s like a gateway into the technological arts,” she said. “A lot of that has been taken out of the school system.”
The costumes she makes are very large, including a Power Loader from the movie ‘Aliens’ and a Tauntaun from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise.
“I do some cosplay type stuff, so I tried to tie together my hobby of making big costumes and robotics to make these absolutely ridiculous costumes,” she said. “A lot of them, I make them as accessible as I possibly can, materials wise, so for the Power Loader, I used basically cardboard and foam core board, so I used these common materials, the base of them is drywall stilts, it draws a lot of attention, and you use the mathematical skills that you learn in robotics to make sure all of these parts fit together like they are supposed to.”
With the Power Loader costume, all of the joints also moved robotically.
“So pretty much all of them contain moving parts. The primary source of movement is the person in the costume,” she said. “With the Tauntaun, the legs moved and it had a hinged mouth, and I made that costume in like three weeks. I wanted to do a lot more, like blinking eyes, but I only had a little time.”
Hodson takes her costumes and wears them to events in Flint where her robotics team is based, such as farmer’s markets, to draw attention to the program.
“I think the big part of it is that the costumes are huge, to draw attention, and I get people talking about the costumes,” she said. “Once you have that attention, you can say you built this using the skills I used on the robotics team. And teach them that you don’t have to be some super smart person to be on the robotics team, you just have to have an idea, you have to have inspiration, and you have to have the connections with the people on your team.”
Next year, Hodson plans to attend Michigan Technical University on a full scholarship for mechatronics.
By Shelby Stewart-Soldan