Reddit is special to Simone Giertz (aka "simsalapim"); it marks the start of her journey into robot-building and the reason she now has this "very weird job." So her first AMA was a very big deal for her. We gathered some of our own favorite questions and answers below; to read the full AMA, go here!
sharkuppercut: What do you do with the purposely shitty robots you make after you've done a video with them? Do they get hung in a hall of fame or do they just get tossed in the trashbin?
simsalapim: I keep them! Some of them are packed up and some of them are hanging on the wall in my workshop. I try to not slaughter them for parts because I often bring them to events, TV shows etc.
hush_shush: Can you actually make a better functioning robots or are they really a reflection of your current skill?
simsalapim: To be honest, building shitty robots is surprisingly difficult. I want them to be shitty in a really specific way, so they are not just a shot in the dark. But sure, I'm no Adam Savage...
WarriorBeard6: What tools should everyone own?
simsalapim: A dremel tool. I use mine for EVERYTHING. Including pedicures. Don't tell foot fetish people.
Turkletons1234: It seems like your notoriety went from, well not 0 obviously, but let's say 10 to 1000 in a really short amount of time, from your first breakfast machine video to where you are at today. Was it something you expected or did your audience grew way faster than you thought ?
simsalapim: I didn't really expect anything because most of this came as a huge surprise. Sometimes I try to picture myself telling 2-years-ago-Simone about everything that has happened and I know she'd just be like "haha, real funny, get the fuck out of my house."
Also when you live in the midst of it it's hard to gage the significance or non-significance of it. What I'm doing is so fricking ridiculous that I can't really take myself too seriously, but at the same time it's grown into its own thing and I've realized it does means a lot to a lot of people.
But I must admit that I love when people come up to me being like "are you from the internet" because it makes me feel like an extraterrestrial creature.
bicarrio: When you code your robots, do you prefer any language? Does it depend on something particular?
PsychoHistorianLady: The Breakfast Machine that poured milk into your cereal bowl, picked up a spoon, and fed you cereal looked pretty complicated. Which operation in that process was the most complicated?
simsalapim: That was actually a really simple project, but it did take a lot of trial and error. The robot arm I used has a learning mode, so basically you just move it around and it copies the movements. But it took like 20 takes before I got it to successfully pick up the cereal, the milk and the spoon. My floors were messed up for weeks afterwards.
SleepyheadKC: Do you consider yourself a role model for girls interested in robotics or other STEM fields? And what do you think about the challenges (harassment, etc.) that many women are encountering in these fields?
simsalapim: Honestly, I struggle a bit with the whole role model concept, because it's a responsibility and not something you can really opt in or out of. But I especially struggle with people saying that I'm a role model for girls, not because there's anything wrong with being that but because I feel that there's this weird notion that women can only be role models for other women. I honestly think it's just as important for men to have female role models.
As for harassment, I've fortunately been pretty spared from it. Sure, there's a steady stream of sexual slurs in the comments, but it's definitely not been as bad as I anticipated.
Goddamn_Wouter: Is there a way to join your space agency? i also really really want to go to space, and can provide my own desk chair for high-g training.
simsalapim: The curriculum is all online and you can follow the lesson plan on my YouTube channel. You're not going to like next week's class though. Damn, it was rough.
h0zae: Any advice to parents of teens and pre-teens? My daughter fears failure and it affects her confidence. You took the failures and found a way to inspire.
simsalapim: Dude you're asking the girl who pushed over a garbage bin in high school because I was upset about getting a B on a math test.
I used to be a really horrible perfectionist. But most of that went away when I moved to China the first time. When I was 16 I went there as an exchange student and when I got back I was like "maybe I didn't get a perfect score, but I CAN SPEAK CHINESE MOTHERFUCKERS,"
Looking back, I think focusing on the process rather than the end product. Things rarely happen the way you expect them to, and maybe the thing you end up with after numerous of failures is better than what it would have been if everything went well from the start, or you learn something new.
But to be honest I still struggle with it. I've just redefined what success is for me, because now a success is when everything goes wrong in an entertaining way. I just try to be compassionate towards myself and realize that if I beat myself up about not performing at my best that's just going to hinder me long term. I just try to not be a dick to myself.
totallynotclueless: Have you ever built a robot which, while intended to be shitty, turned out to be actually pretty good/useful?
simsalapim: People were pretty upset when I posted the beer robot and said it worked way too well.