Maksym Varnakov: Everyone can Build a Robot

22 Jun, 2017

Maksym Varnakov is studying at the Sykhiv gymnasium in Lviv. He is the winner of IT Challenge competition, which Lviv IT Cluster organizes every year in collaboration with Lviv City Council. In the interview, Maksym talked about his project Roboguide, the ideas for future projects and what else the talented students are interested in.

The idea to create a Robot guide came from my mom. Once we visited a museum and the guide led an excursion in a very boring way, so my mom said – as you are interested in technologies, why not to create a Robot guide. There is a lack of English speaking guides for tourists in Lviv, so Roboguide could give information about interesting and hidden places in Lviv that you can’t find on English websites.

A perfect guide for tourists

Roboguide aims to help tourists to find the right destination or do a city tour; it fits the customer’s needs individually – it can change the voice tempo, speed, and volume. Now I’m working on the Robot’s interface and I also plan to replace the Bluetooth module with Wi-Fi; it will allow the robot to connect easier with the database. Now the guide is still a prototype, and my classroom is the prototype of the museum. Roboguide can already identify and name objects such as a table or a chair. The robot will also be able to rank exhibits or museums. I will use Google Text-to-speech, which will generate an artificial voice in English.

You can already find such robots in museums abroad, they are usually not higher than 1 meter. I also saw a video about a robot guide at a university campus in the US, who is showing around new places and buildings for the freshmen. I’ve made an individual robot, which is affordable to everyone. Now the prototype costs 20$, and when I will finish it, it won’t cost more than 50$, which is very affordable for international tourists. You can buy the robot, download the app and start exploring Lviv. Roboguide will not only work in museums but also outside – it will tell you information about historical buildings, streets, monuments, etc. Using wi-fi, it will be able to identify the location of the person and recommend places to visit nearby.

How to make our life easier?

Computers became my hobby from the first sight. When I started using it, I really wanted to understand all the processes behind it, how it physically works, how the transistors save the information, and how the programs work. I’ve started to learn Python programming language at school, and I began to code my own computer programs immediately.

I have one more idea that I want to implement – it’s a web page or an app, which could help people to understand a problematic situation using simple conditional questions with YES/NO answers. If a person is in pain, for example, the app or a website would give recommendations what to do in this situation. Is it an emergency situation, whether you need to go to the doctor etc.

I’m studying at the Sykhiv gymnasium in a specialized IT class. We have 5 lessons of Informatics per week. Next year I plan to apply for studying at Lviv Polytechnic National University – most likely, the Faculty of Computer Science. I know that there is a new innovative program Internet of Things, so I might apply for it too.

I monitor different competitions, workshops, open days and other interesting events. Together with my friend from school, I participated in the first IT competition in Kyiv with our project “Smart blinds”. We won the second place and received very nice gifts, and it was really interesting. It’s a great experience and a good possibility to get support for your ideas. Roboguide is also interesting for me partly because of the new experience; I can use the experience of constructing Arduino in my future projects and ideas.

The money I won at IT Challenge (10,000 UAH) I will use for improving Roboguide. I want to buy a Raspberry Pi model with connectors, adapters and a digital compass. All these items I order online from abroad.

I’m very interested in Internet of Things. It’s a technology that is possible to use everywhere: from a car alarm to autopilot. It makes our life easier and it’s the next step into the future. It would also be great to construct a smart house, with a lot of different automatized processes. It’s really time-consuming. You can control water, electric or heating costs and make them much lower. We’ve made a calculation for our classroom at school. If we would use our “smart blinds”, we would save around 10$ per month. So, in a big private house, you will be able to save even more money. Internet of Things gives you a chance to spend your money and time in a smarter way by using technology.