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Robot Design – Theory, Practice, Philosophy

Innovation at UCF: students of LAS and Interdisciplinary Anthropology are building robot technology with their own hands. Dr. Reto Schölly's elective course, is accompanied by introductory lectures on the most important positions of important technology philosophers and subsequent discussions.

Autonomous systems are becoming an integral part of everyday life. The best known examples are autonomous vehicles and robotic vacuum cleaners. These so called "robots" – from Czech robota ("slave") – often evoke suspicion or loathing within the uninitiated. Critics often fear they might become a scourge upon their makers, taking human jobs away or even cause malice and mayhem, while supporters, on the other hand, like seeing those machines as a form of salvation from major human problems.

In order to enable students from non-technical degree programs to participate in the debate about pros and cons of robotics in an informed way, this course introduces basic knowledge about how autonomous robotic systems work. The technical-philosophical discussions are based on the positions of authors such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Steinbuch, Heinz von Förster, Bernhard Irrgang, and Bruno Latour.

The robots are not constructed using existing kits such as "Lego Mindstorms". Rather, students learn to construct robots from components commonly used in industry. They design the mechanical parts, the electronic circuits and the control software themselves. As final projects, they build a robot together as a team. One result so far has been a non-contact cane made of parts from the automotive industry. Have a look:


More information on the course, that took place in winter semester 2018/19, can be found in our course catalog. The course is kindly supported by the StuRa. Thank you very much!

Re-Enchanting Greece? UCF Excursion to Greece Summer 2018

Greece Panorama

Ancient Greeks lived in a landscape full of stories: where gods and heroes made the sun rise and plants grow, where rivers and winds had personalities, where mountains hid secret entrances to other worlds. Modern Greece, too, has its stories: of environmental challenges, of the tourism economy, of political renewal. Can we moderns learn from the ancients about a sustainable use of nature? What are the possibilities and the limits of modern scientific approaches to knowledge? Can we re-enchant the Greek landscape by understanding its deep history?

The excursion was jointly organized by the LAS Coordinators for Culture & History (Dr. Ryan Plumley) and Earth & Environmental Sciences (Dr. Sabine Sané). LAS students from all Majors as well as students from the Faculty of Biology explored the relations between humans and nature in both ancient and modern Greece by visiting archaeological sites, hiking the woods and hills, and speaking with on-site experts about themes ranging from ancient water management techniques to modern heritage site management, from ancient animal sacrifice to modern organic wine growing. The excursion ended with a look to the future of cultural story-telling at Elefsina, European Cultural Capital for 2021.

Greece Excursion 2018

Here you can even more insights – have a look at the excursion documentation.

We thank Freunde der Universität Freiburg, Stiftung Humanismus Heute, and the StuRa for their kind support!

Beer and Wine as Crafts

Beer and wine can be understood from a variety of perspectives: as intoxicants, as market commodities, as elements of social ritual, as conservation of biodiversity, and so on. Particularly in our region, the production of these beverages have long histories and also important contemporary relevance as sources of economic prosperity, as aspects of cultural identity, and as features of the ever-changing relationship between human beings and nature.

The LAS mini-seminar "Beer and Wine as Crafts" combines expertise from the Majors Culture & History and Earth and Environmental Sciences. It focuses on craft as a way of describing the kind of knowledge and practice that structures this interaction in ways that offer both positive opportunity and negative consequences for the people, the organisms, and the environment. So, what is a craft? What makes craftwork distinct from other kinds of work? How is scientific expertise related to craftsmanship? How do human beings create relationships to other organisms and to the wider environment?

Besides various field trips, students and lecturers engaged themselves in science-based craftwork and went through the brewing process from mashing, lautering, boiling, hopping, cooling, to pitching – an interesting, funny, and also smelly inquiry into how natural organisms are used to make beer.

Beer and Wine as Crafts Theory Mixing
Ingredients Group Work Measuring
Beer Wine Cellar Wine Tasting

Materials and necessary guidance were provided by the local brewing expert, Clayton Robinson from Die Brauhandwerker – thank you for the support and many insights!