BuddyBot Project Brings Smiles To Children In Need

Hannah Jane DeCiuttis

There are many projects and services that can be done to benefit children’s hospitals such as toy drives and fund-raisers; many of these projects have even been done at Cedar Park High School. However, it is not often when a student spends three years creating a robotics project from scratch simply to bring a smile to the face of a child less fortunate.

Alex Huynh, junior, came up with the idea for BuddyBot as a freshman. He combined his talents as well as life experiences to create a project that was both meaningful and interesting.

“It didn’t happen all at once. It took a long time,” Huynh said, “I’ve been interested in robotics for awhile and my little brother Sean has autism, [so] I’m familiar with disabled children and how they feel.”

Huynh’s BuddyBot performance is entitled “Dancing With the Bots,” and is modeled after the hit ABC show “Dancing With the Stars.” During the show, Huynh “interviews” each of the robots and afterward each robot performs a dance. The audience gets to interact by giving feedback and voting on which dance wins.

“When [the kids] vote they get really enthusiastic,” Huynh said. “It’s awesome.”

However, such an extensive project eventually required just more than one participant, so Huynh recruited a few friends to help him perform the shows.

“It was pretty early on [when I realized] that I needed a team,” Huynh said. “In order to make [the show] more smooth, I would need another person to operate the remote, and other people afterward to interact with the kids.”

Huynh’s teammates include Kristin Nelson, junior, Aaron Villalpando and Evan Sala, seniors. They rotate jobs so that every member has the opportunity to participate in each part of the show. Starting in the fall of 2010, the whole crew met at Huynh’s house every Sunday to do practice runs. In January 2011, BuddyBot made its debut.

“We’ve done two shows so far,” Huynh said. “We do them at Dell Children’s Hospital [approximately] every other weekend.”

Currently BuddyBot raises funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as well as the Ronald McDonald House. The group also performed February 6 for Wonders and Worries, which is a program for the children of adults with disabilities or illnesses. As far as donation and volunteering options, there are many for interested students.

“I’m looking for teammates for next year because Evan and Aaron are graduating,” Huynh said. “Also we’ve been trying to find venues for donation, but we’ve run into some issues. People [are welcome] to donate or suggest where a show could take place.”

Huynh along with his team are an excellent example of how innovation and inspiration despite a student’s age can go a long way to making a difference. Information about event dates as well as photos and videos can be reached at www.buddybot.org.