Taught people in Newcastle Uni; Did some legal and project management work for IBM; Talked to prospective students about the Uni of Greenwich; Mechanic, Landscaper, Receptionist and Courier in Russia
Doctoral Student in Computer Science, studying how people and robots could live better together; Volunteer – helping older people understand new technology
Northumbria University at Newcastle
A researcher, self-developer, and fitness enthusiast, I’ve studied in 3 different countries, and now give robots to people to see what works in home robotics and what doesn’t.
With language and culture barriers to overcome, I have been an international student in-and-out since the age of 12, becoming a full-time international student at 17. My primary and secondary education were in the Siberian prairies of Russia, whilst my high school days were spent in Ireland. I’ve moved to the UK for the university and am now involved in some exciting PhD work.
Life beyond school proved both unexpected and exhilarating for me. I am looking forward to answering the questions and participating in the chats with people in the hope of clarifying some of the things I wish I knew back 10 years ago!
Here are some quick quirky facts about me you might be interested in:
I’ve met with the then-president of Ireland when she visited my school.
I enjoy quad-biking and scuba diving, whenever I am on vacation.
Being ambidextrous, I can use both of my hands equally well.
I’ve spent a few weeks with the Shamans of the Altai Mountains.
I’ve finished music school with distinction and play guitar from time to time.
Wherever I travel, I buy a deck of playing cards with the symbolism of that country (I already have 24 decks!).
I’m bilingual (English and Russian) and aspire to learn German and Japanese in the future.
Looking for ways to make robots better housemates.
What a domestic robot can do that a phone, a tablet or a computer cannot?
This is the principle question for me so far. I am giving robots and similar technologies to people for a few months to see what they think about them, how they use them, and most importantly, why they use them the way they do.
I am keen to explore robotics as it is today, not the stories we tell ourselves about the glorious future of robotics (or equally glorious dystopia). Part of this exploration is realising that, for your homes, robots are still clumsy, expensive, and can’t help you much more than a computer can!
In spite of that, there is also hope for finding the kind of robot you can talk to, share your feelings with, and be understood by. These are especially fascinating, and a focus of my studies.
Below are my typical tools of the trade: the current technology I am interested in (Amazon Echo), a notepad and a pen to record the experience, an audio recorder for interviews and some paper with information about the study.
My Typical Day
Days are often unpredictable, much like the British weather – it’s calm and quiet one minute, and in the next you are sucked into the vortex of new discoveries, new ideas and new people to interact with!
In an ideal day, I’d fit a writing session in the morning to let other researchers know what kind of work I am doing. During the lunch time, we like to sit together in our lab and chat about what each of us has been doing, share ideas and help improve each other’s work. It so happens that human-robot interaction (that’s the official name for what I do) brings together experts from many different fields – from mathematicians to social scientists to medical specialists – and everyone can help each other by providing their expertise in a discussion. Robots can help almost everyone, everywhere – so there is no shortage of ideas!
Afternoon would usually be filled with visits to people who participate in my studies, showing up or organizing workshops or discussions on something important, interesting or both! It is also essential for me to check the news for any new robots that become available – I might need to order them in advance, write to the developers or otherwise include them in my work. I test other people’s robots first, in order to understand what is essential, before building my own or re-programming an existing one to do something different.
Towards the evening, when all the deep brainpower is gone for the day, it is good to review your work, send some reminders to people or fire an email to someone you want to work with. I have some people in Japan, for example, whom I really wanted to interview, so I got in touch with them, and they turned out to be very helpful people who want to participate!
What I'd do with the money
Make developers listen to who are probably their best bet with robots – school students!
It’s surprising, that robot developers might never ask you, as school students, how robots should look and work! I’ll use the money to rectify that, by organising the tester sessions, where everybody, including school students can not only play with existing robots, but share their opinions, criticism and ideas, which will be collected and shared with the robot developers!
One of the robots you might end up playing with is Buddy. I wait for my own copy to arrive in July, 2017.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Kind, Smart, Purposeful.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
MoozE – a fantastic ambient/game musician.
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Having a hike, rafting (falling off the raft and having a regular swim too), performing in a rock gig, and playing a night-time scavenger hunt – all in one day!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Once. I was careful all the other times ;)
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Guided architecture students to build an extensive exhibition with computers and smart materials.
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
Biologist, auditor, or a teacher – I love teaching in small groups and I love to investigate new things!
Tell us a joke.
Humour is not my strong suit :)
Presenting your work is an important part of research. Here’s me presenting my findings to the Open Lab community at Newcastle University.
When you teach others about robotics, hardware and smart materials – you start with the basics that work quickly. This Arduino was programmed by Architecture students to emit light whenever a button is pressed. This was later used in their artistic installation.
A typical office looks like this. Chairs, tables and computers are typical for any office, but the hanging bottles on the window is our own in-office farm. We ended up with some tomatoes by the end of its work! There is enough space to unpack, assemble and move robots around.
Collaboration is at the essence of research, so we often participate in each other’s projects. Here is my contribution to what ended up being an exhibition in Liverpool.