I worked for a small start up company called Decidz who develop an app to organise socially. Before this I worked for the technology team in a company called BlackRock, one of the largest financial companies in the world. Over the last 10 years lots of waitressing/bar/retail jobs since I was 16.
Being a PhD student is a great combination of work and study. I have funding which allows me to study full time, pays for my fees and pays me a wage. This is through the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and is funded by the EPSRC. The programme I am on is 4 years long, where I get a Masters and PhD as well as access to lots of academics and resources to help my research. I have elaborated on this further in the ‘My Work’ section
Edinburgh Centre for Robotics.
Fàilte! Welcome! I’m Siobhan, a PhD student in Edinburgh from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. I’m interested in swarms of robots that can one day help us explore our universe!
I’m a 25 year old PhD student in Edinburgh. I live with my sister Kirsty, who is master’s student in Computer Science. I have also have a younger brother, Scott, who studies Computer Science in Glasgow. We’re are a pretty technology mad family.
I live with my two cats. Our wee tomcat Haydn who is a fiercely independent panther-cat who we named after Hedy Lammar who was a famous engineer and film star. Hedy helped engineer frequency-hopping, spread-spectrum technology which laid the ground work for WiFi today. Our other cat, Emilia who is a soft lap cat who loves to climb doors and she is named after Émilie du Châtelet a famous French physicist who contributed massively to a branch of physics known as Newtonian mechanics used heavily by engineers.
I’m originally from an island off the north west coast of Scotland called the Isle of Lewis. It’s pretty lovely there, quiet, clean, beautiful and very very windy 😀 Many people from home speak Gaelic, or Gàidhlig, although I only know a few phrases and our island has been voted the best in Europe. More on my hometown.
I became interested in Robotics because it’s cool, it’s a lot of fun and it’s a career that allows you to play with cool gadgets and toys all day.
I initially fell in love with the idea of building robots by watching lots of movies with robots as a kid. Star wars, Robot and Frank, iRobot, Wall-e, Bicentennial Man, Artificial Intelligence, Chappie, 2001: A space odyssey, etc…
I dream about a world where people don’t have to do boring, repetitive tasks and can spend their time learning, taking part in sports, playing games, or what ever they wish to do 🙂 We could also use robots to clean up the planet, save people from dangerous situations and send them further and further into space to see what is out there.
One of my favourite things to do when I’m not working, is to binge watching tv shows. The highlights include Rick and Morty, Archer, BoJack Horseman and StarGate SG1.
I’m very passionate about getting more young women and girls interested in Robotics and technology in general. I also love to speak to people about what robots are, why they are a great thing and why we don’t need to fear a real life terminator.
I have written about why I think we need more women in Robotics for our student blog.
I am looking at how we can design robots that collaborate with thousands (or even millions) of others identical robots to complete a common goal.
My work involves researching how we can design robots that can collaborate with thousands (or even millions) of others identical robots to complete a common goal.
This common goal could be to search for a person after a disaster, explore a new planet or build homes/bridges/etc… so that people don’t have to.
This idea is inspired by the way that social insects behave, like ants, bees, termites, etc…
Very simple insects are capable of working as a team to build huge structures, carry food far bigger than any one insect, create bridges out of themselves, or even communicate using dance.
The science behind this is know an swarm intelligence, which is a branch Artificial Intelligence. How can we design and build complex intelligent robot swarms made of very simple robots that aren’t very smart as an individual.
Don’t hesitate to ask me more questions about my work!
My Typical Day
Studying, reading about other people’s work or playing with cool technology.
What I'd do with the money
Build a small, simple robotic swarm to bring with me on my outreach work.
I would use the money to pay for materials to build a small robot swarm using an open source design. This could be modified to make the robots simpler to use and to add things like flashing lights etc.. to make them look cooler.
This would allow me to take these robots with me when I do my outreach work. At the moment I borrow one robot from the centre and I have a small robotic arm which I own.
However a cheap swarm would allow me to better communicate my work to the public. It would also allow children, young people and adults access to a real swarm which they can program and learn about swarms intelligence and robotics.
Ideally I would have a demo mode used for showing them off and a demo program that children could modify to observe how simple changes can have significant effects on global behaviours of the swarm.
In addition, individual robots from a swarm can be used for outreach and kids can modify the code to allow the robot to avoid obstacles or perform a certain pre-programmed movement, etc…
One potential open source platform is the Colias Robot Image
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Friendly, fun and geeky.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Right now I’m obsessed with Chance the Rapper and Elli Ingram
What's your favourite food?
Junk food. The more chocolate the better.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Toured Ireland with a funk band for two weeks. It was epic.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Haha yes, I used to refuse to wear proper school uniform so I was always getting told off for that.
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Three of us built a robot out of lego, a computer, senrors, wheels and a camera and programmed it to move around catching blocks with Mario, Wario, Fry and Zoidberg on them. This was for a class and we got credits for it. See what I mean about robotics being a career approved way to play with cool toys/gadgets all day? :D
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
Musician, hair stylist, environmental campaigner or politician. Too many cool careers to choose just one!
Tell us a joke.
What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloumi! …. Chese jokes are my favorite <3
On international women’s day I took part in a stall where we showed off some of the robots we have in the lab. We had mostly women on the stall to highlight the great girls we have in the department <3
The Edinburgh Centre for Robotics has a NASA robot called the Valkyrie designed to go into space.
Here is their webpage And here is a picture of the team that work with the robot.