“…complexity, correctly viewed, is only a mask for simplicity”
-Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial

Hivebots is a group activity that introduces the concept of emergence through playing.

Inspired by Bonabeau, Dorigo and Theraulaz’s Swarm intelligence: from natural to artificial systems, and initiated by Michael Weller, the activity tells a story about complex behavior that emerges from simple rules.

hivebots workshop at Carnegie Science Center

The workshop starts with a story of how wasps build their nest, and concludes with how the concept of emergent behavior can apply to modular robots. The playful hands-on part in between involves building a structure using cardboard boxes of two colors. A set of cards illustrate the rules for putting the boxes together. Each participant would receive one card; when the structure on the card is found, a box of a particular color is added by the card holder. Over time, the boxes would grow into a human scale structure, and a pattern would emerge.

I joined the group as rule set designer, graphic designer, and activity planner. Over the summer of 2009, we iteratively designed and ran the workshop several times at the Carnegie Science Center as a part of their RoboWorld exhibit and summer camp program. For more information, visit here.

Special thanks to Amanda Stano from Carnegie Science Center for her exceptional energy and experience working with kids!

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A workshop on complex structure that emerges from simple rules

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