Selin Ornek interview: A young maker who loves dogs, robots and Star Wars

By Rob Zwetsloot. Posted

Last issue we featured the amazing Kimberlina robot, the Star Wars-inspired Raspberry Pi Pico battle bot. Its creator, Selin Ornek, loves to make robots and is the captain of her school’s FRC (First Robotics Competition) team, River Robotics.

“I started coding when I was eight years old and was building robots when I was ten.” Selin says. “I have built six robots; ic4u and ic4u2 are guide dog robots for blind people, BB4All is a school assistant robot [whose] main goal is to prevent bullying. Both robots are voice-controlled and can interact with people. My other robots which I built just for fun are “Hashmet the Android”, the one-wheeled Star Wars droid “D-0” and “Kimberlina” the battlebot, as I love androids and Star Wars.”

What is your history with making things?

When I was eight years old my dog Korsan passed away. I was really upset and wanted to bring him back to life. I had to do a math project for school, and I had to interview a technical professional, so I asked my dad’s friend, a mechanical engineer, lots of questions then showed him a drawing of a robot that I wanted to make to bring Korsan back to life. He told me that I should learn coding and robotics. My English teacher was also using MIT Scratch in class to make the lessons more fun. I asked him how he made the games, as I loved playing Minecraft at that time. He encouraged me to try and make games myself using Scratch.

I also started to learn how to code from books and the internet. My parents then bought me a Mbot that I took to pieces and made into a little robot that I called “çirozbot” which means skinnybot. I used Scratch to code MBot and that is when I learned that I would be able to make more advanced projects using Arduino and C++.

The first project I built was a smart collar for dogs with Arduino. I then used Arduino in the first version of IC4U. I had decided to take IC4U to Dublin to Coolest Projects International 2018, whilst building him I entered one of Coolest Projects’ social media competitions, and won my first Raspberry Pi Zero. Then I won first place in the hardware category at Coolest Projects, and one of my prizes was a Raspberry Pi 3B+. After this, I started to use Raspberry Pi in all my projects.

How did you learn about Raspberry Pi?

As I got more confident coding and using more advanced products in my projects, I started looking up other options I could use. Raspberry Pi was on the top of my list as I was looking for a powerful microcontroller and I was also very eager to learn coding with Python. Unfortunately, these were quite expensive, especially as I try to pay for all the parts I use for my robots out of my allowance. So I was extremely happy to win a Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi 3B+ and start using them.

What was the first thing you made with Raspberry Pi?

IC4U2, [which was] the second version of my robot guide dog for blind people.

I had built IC4U as when we were on holiday in France, I saw a guide dog with its visually impaired owner. I had never seen one before, as there were only a couple in Turkey at that time. It really made me think of Korsan and how sad I was when he died. I began to think that if I had been so upset, how would a blind person feel? Not only would they lose their best friend, but they would also lose their eyes again.

So I decided to build IC4U, my robot guide dog. The Guide Dogs UK association and the American Guide Dog association were amazing, answered all my questions, and explained just how a guide dog is trained and what they should do. I built the first version using Arduino, IC4U and I won first place in Coolest Projects International 2018 in the hardware category. I was also very kindly given a Google AIY Voice HAT and Vision Kit. As soon as I got back home, I started to build IC4U2.

From The MagPi store


Subscribe to the newsletter

Get every issue delivered directly to your inbox and keep up to date with the latest news, offers, events, and more.