If you’ve been to Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, you have likely encountered—perhaps even interacted with—the art of Elaine Reed, April’s Volunteer of the Month. RightBot, our human-sized robot not only displays faces of our students and recites the digits of Pi every five minutes*, it also provides endless delight to robot lovers of all ages by playing a variety of robot sounds and songs,** ending always with a belch.*** It also provides some legitimacy to our storefront as our biggest and coolest functioning robot. Elaine’s Lost Bots photo collages and gorgeous oil paintings of 3D robots experiencing different subtle shades of confusion and curiosity, grace our walls and humanize our automated friends.
We love working with visual artists, and Elaine Reed is one of our very favorites. Artist in Residence for the Bedside Art Program with the Gifts of Art Program at the University of Michigan Hospital, Elaine has shared her talents and teaching expertise with 826michigan since 2007. In her wildly popular Robot School 101 workshops, Elaine teaches our students how to draw a 3D robot and then asks them to imagine what life must be like for this school-aged bot. Does a robot school day include lunch and recess? What kind of workout do bots get during gym class? And what kinds of tests (the BEEP test instead of the MEAP?) do they take? By asking the students to sketch their robots before they write, Elaine gives our students a new way of imagining a world and entering a story. The class has been so successful that Elaine has taken her show on the road, delighting classes at Perry Elementary and the campers at Camp Michitanki. In light of Elaine’s love of robots and creativity, it’s only fitting that over the years, her workshops have produced a countless army of newly imagined bots with incredible abilities and helpful powers (see chapbooks My Robot Eats Pie and My Robot Eats Pudding for evidence of this). Elaine is a champion of our students and their work, always seeking new ways for their voices to reach new audiences. This spring, she’ll be helping us with a new project of recording students reading their work and creating polished podcasts from these files.
*Anyone who has spent some time working in the robot shop, knows about an amazing phenomenon that occurs, wherein you actually stop hearing the RightBot reciting Pi after some number of hours or days
**For example, The Price is Right theme song, R2D2 beeps, and the theme from Knight Rider.
***RightBot accepts any form and denomination of currency for this audio service, ranging from a coin, to a dollar bill, to a joke written on a slip of paper.