Reflections of ICRA 2012 and ROScon 2012 -- Part I

"Teeter between tired and really really tired. I'm wiped and I'm wired but I guess it's just as well." --Ani DiFranco, Swan Dive

This quote describes, very well, an aspect of conferences I did not fully appreciate until spending the past week in St. Paul Minnesotta. Specifically I learned that they are as much about networking as anything else.

But let me back up. My advisor Dr. Jur van den Berg sent my colleagues and I to St. Paul Minnesota to see the state of the art in robotics and to meet others in our respective fields. Monday through Friday we attended the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). On Saturday and Sunday we attended ROScon, a conference on Robot Operating System (ROS).

Going in it seems obvious that one would meet a lot of people as research often involves collaboration. However, and maybe I'm alone in this revelation, but I underestimated the amount of time I would spend meeting new people and learning about their work. I guess I expected to meet a few people whose interests align with mine and this occurred. I did not expect to be awake from 7:30 AM until about 2:00 AM the next morning everyday.

Even with the lack of sleep I felt quite good. A couple cups of coffee in the morning to wake up and a few beers each night to ensure I rested well and I was raring to go. I think there was an additional dimension to this though. I did not expect the sheer number of "new" ideas spawned by seeing what others were doing (I qualify because not having done a literature review one cannot be certain whether any given idea is in fact new). With this came something of a high.

I don't believe I was the only one feeling this way though. A very common question was "so, what do yo do?" Granted this is a classic small talk question, but what better way is there to seek out new ideas? Suffice it to say that by the end of the week I felt almost choreographed in my response, save for the minor variations that arose based on the specialty of the person I was speaking with at any given moment.

From all this I met a lot of great people. Several that I have idolized, some with which I hope to collaborate, and a whole lot I'm glad to call friend. Thank you for making this past week so fun.

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