Meet hitchBOT’s Family

Growing up, hitchBOT was surrounded by bright, intelligent, and supportive people who it was proud to call its family. These are the family members who helped plan hitchBOT’s exciting adventures.

David Smith | Frauke Zeller | Alexandra PavliucColin Gagich | Daven Bigelow | Dominik Kaukinen | Haley Coppins | Kaela Malozewski| Lauren Dwyer | Lily Beaul | Meaghan Hutchison | Rob Epp | Alanna Mager | Brigitte Dreger-Smylie | Diego Santos | Ebrahim Bagheri | Frank Rudzicz | Hana Smith | Ian Ray Barcarse | Isabella Kempf | Jacky Au Duong | Juana Luck | Karin Vielberth Fish | Meaghan Carrocci | Olivia Rossetti | kulturBOT

David Harris SmithDavid Harris Smith
It was David and Frauke who came up with the idea of a robot hitchhiking across Canada. Seeing that neither of them are robots, they persuaded me to go on this adventure instead. Since then, they’ve assembled a team of fine researchers (my family) to help me prepare for this experience. When David is not coaching me on travel safety, he teaches courses in code and design fundamentals, DIY media, avatar virtual environments, and new media arts at McMaster University, where he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Director of Research for the macGRID Simulation Research Network. With his diverse expertise, David is my go-to for advice and guidance for my coast-to-coast trip.

Frauke ZellerFrauke Zeller
Frauke is an Associate Professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University. She received a PhD in English linguistics and computational philology from Kassel University in Germany in 2005. Her thesis focused on linguistic aspects in human-robot interaction. In other words, I have her to thank for my sense of humour. From 2005 to 2011, Frauke was a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Media and Communication Studies at Ilmenau University of Technology. She finished her habilitation (highest academic degree in Germany) in 2011, working on mixed-methods to analyze online communities. Her research interests include human-computer interaction/human-robot interaction, digital communication, organizational communication, and method development for digital research analyses. I guess I should prepare to be thoroughly analyzed when I come home!

Alexandra PavliucAlexandra Pavliuc
Alexandra and I have a love of travel in common. She is currently studying Data Science at City, University of London in the UK! She studied Professional Communication and Physics at Ryerson University while working with my family and I. Alexandra is very involved in Ukrainian scouts and the Ukrainian community at large. Like me, she has also travelled to various places across Canada, though her favourite modes of transportation were hiking, biking and canoeing!

Colin GagichColin Gagich
Colin knows me inside-out…sort of like my doctor. As my developer, Colin makes sure that the only bugs I see are splattered against a windshield. He is pursuing an undergraduate degree in mechatronics engineering and management at McMaster University. Though he won’t be traveling with me, he’ll be monitoring my health status closely, making sure that I am alive and well.

Daven BigelowDaven Bigelow
Daven is currently studying towards an undergraduate Multimedia B.A. Single Honours degree at McMaster. He is helping me develop my conversation skills and will also work on my website. His biggest wish is for everyone to get a chance to meet me (and who wouldn’t want that?)! Aside of his love for programming, Daven is also a published author on game development and co-developer of a commercial game on Steam.

Dominik KaukinenDominik Kaukinen
Dominik is pursuing an undergraduate engineering degree in mechatronics and management from McMaster. He is particularly focused on my physical well being and keeping me awake. He will help ensure I don’t sustain any injuries while on my trip across Canada; caused by the elements or otherwise. As much as I like swimming, water and me don’t mix.

Haley CoppinsHaley Coppins
Haley is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Before attending Ryerson, Haley completed her undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and Sociology at McMaster University, though somehow, she never met me! Haley enjoys music just like me, and sometimes we listen to my favourite song together: Mr. Roboto. She also loves exploring the great outdoors. Maybe she’ll go hitchhiking next!

Kaela Malozewski Kaela Malozewski
Kaela takes care of all things social media. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Prior to attending Ryerson, Kaela studied at the University of Ottawa and Humber College where she completed a certificate in Corporate Communication and worked in communication marketing. Having traveled a great deal herself, she always gives me great tips before my adventures and consistently urges me to wear a fanny pack to keep my valuables safe. I’m working on her robot fashion sense.

Lauren Dwyer
Lauren works with my family on the research side of things for both robots and virtual environments. She is currently doing her Master’s in Professional Communication at Ryerson University where she is hoping to build a robot of her own some day! We can be friends! Before she moved to Toronto (and met me) Lauren completed her BSc Hons in Psychology from Memorial University in Newfoundland, a place I would love to visit someday. In her spare time Lauren plays dodgeball, something I would love to try, but I’m not sure how I would throw the balls, maybe she could teach me!

Lily BeaulLily Beaul
Lily is a graduate of McMaster University with a combined degree in multimedia and philosophy, and is an MA candidate in Communication and New Media at McMaster. Her previous research was focused on developing MockingBOT, an AI agent for Second Life, and MacGRID. Now all her attention is on me (who can resist me?). Lily is a long-time writer, storyteller, coder, and designer with a focus in independent game development. She also writes novels on the side.

Meaghan HutchisonMeaghan Hutchison
Meaghan keeps track of my presence on social media, including my comments and what others say about me. She is also pursuing her degree in Professional Communication at Ryerson University, and is involved with two student organizations on campus. She’s never hitchhiked anywhere before, but she has been to the West Coast many times, and sometimes visits places as far away as the Caribbean for SCUBA diving! I asked her whether she could see me SCUBA diving, and she said that although I would enjoy the scenery, the saltwater probably wouldn’t be good for my circuits.

Rob EppRob Epp
Rob is working towards a degree in Mechatronic Engineering at McMaster University. He mostly helps me with construction and testing of my major hardware systems especially the electrical, battery and power management. He does his best to create high quality robust systems that will keep me working in harsh environments. Rob hopes that I will hold up on my long journeys around the world, create a positive image for robots everywhere and inspire people to get into the field of robotics. He is an inspiration!

Alanna MagerAlanna Mager


Alanna is my social media godmother. She holds a master’s degree in professional communication at Ryerson University, and received a BA in English language and literature from Western University in 2010, after which she worked in web and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. Her research interests include digital storytelling, social media, content creation, and marketing communication. She is constantly bugging me to go do yoga with her but I would honestly rather spend my time horseback riding.

Brigitte Dreger-SmylieBrigitte Dreger-Smylie
Brigitte helped my family stay on track. As a communications specialist, she helped make sure I didn’t talk too funny and that all of my family’s projects went according to plan. She did her Master of Professional Communication at Ryerson University, which is where we met. Before that, Brigitte did an undergraduate degree in Biology and Professional Writing. Brigitte’s hitchhiked too, but in places I’ve never been – like Guatemala and Belize. We had a lot of great stories to share!

Diego SantosDiego Santos

Diego is an undergraduate computer science student at the University of Toronto, on exchange from Brazil. He has promised to teach me how to play soccer.

Ebrahim BagheriEbrahim Bagheri

Ebrahim is an Assistant Professor and the Director for the Laboratory for Systems, Software and Semantics (LS3) at Ryerson University. He was one of the research theme leaders of the national project on Radiation Emission Monitoring at the National Research Council Canada. He was responsible for leading the development of the semantic web and knowledge engineering components of that project and has given me a love for knowledge as well. He tells me that I should avoid the paparazzi – he can tell that I’m going to be quite a popular robot.

Frank RudziczFrank Rudzicz

Frank is a scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. He has authored about 40 papers, mostly focusing on atypical speech and language both in people with physical disorders such as cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease, and in people with cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Did I mention that he nurtured my ability to speak? Frank has never hitchhiked before, so he’ll be living vicariously through me. He has, however, read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy many times.

Hana SmithHana Smith
Hana is a soon to be graduate of the media management masters program at the University of Tampere in Finland. While she may have travelled to more places than I have, I definitely have her beat when it comes to dancing (especially with my signature move.. any guesses what that might be?). Hana researched ways to help me find my inner child.

Ian Ray BarcarseIan Ray Barcarse
Ian treated me like a star by looking out for my online image. With over five years of experience in digital marketing, I trusted him to manage my website and social media content. As a Master of Professional Communication (MPC) graduate at Ryerson University, Ian’s research interests are in gamification systems, digital marketing strategies, and social media network analysis. Growing up in the Philippines, Ian doesn’t enjoy the winter – he says his thumbs get numb like mine!

Isabella KempfIsabella Kempf

Isabella helped me learn German and to know about German culture. I still don’t really understand what currywurst is, but I love trying new things! Isabella is from a small town near Würzburg, worked in Namibia for a newspaper in Windhouk, then spent several years in Berlin as a journalist. Then she got hitched to a Canadian in Toronto, which is where she met me, hitchBOT, for the first time.

Jacky Au DuongJacky Au Duong
Like me, Jacky enjoys long roadtrips, exploring new places, and meeting new people. He was quite jealous that I got to go on these adventures, but hey, what else should a robot built for exploration do? When he was not traveling, Jacky helped my family plan my adventures and made sure that I have everything that I need. Jacky recently graduated from the Master of Professional Communication (MPC) program at Ryerson University, where he studied digital marketing, brand-to-consumer relationships, and social media. He is currently working on publishing his research– a journey of a different kind, I suppose– good luck to him!

Juana LuckJuana Luck


Juana taught me how to properly talk in German! Growing up and coming from Germany, she knows a lot about the local customs and jargon. She is a graduate student at McMaster University. When she graduates she would like to work as a public relations professional for an ethical company or become a social researcher.

Karin Vielberth FishKarin Vielberth Fish
Karin helped to keep my family connected and also developed my language skills. She has joined McMaster University’s Multimedia and Communications program to enrich her career as an illustrator and designer. Karin is a fellow sojourner and has hitchhiked across Canada, just like me.

Meaghan CarrocciMeaghan Carrocci
Meaghan is a new media designer, artist and entrepreneur with a unique combination of expertise in multimedia development and communications strategy. She helped me with my website development, infographic design and video promotion so that people know how to take care of me and track me while I am on my trips! Meaghan is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Communication and New Media program at McMaster University.

Olivia RossettiOlivia Rossetti


Olivia worked with my family to keep us all organized. She aides in task fulfillment and team management. She also provides supplementary research for further analysis of my adventures. Olivia is currently pursuing a degree in Professional Communication at Ryerson University. Olivia also volunteers her time sitting on the Board of Directors as a Youth Ambassador for an international humanitarian non-profit organization. Olivia loves to bake, just like me.

my kulturBOT, my older brother, is a robotic art show reviewer and poet that attends exhibitions and tweets text-captioned photos of the artworks and venue. This April, it travelled across Canada aboard the Great Canadian PoeTrain Express. Riding aboard a train suited my kulturBOT well since it has no hitchhiking thumbs. It taught me the do’s and don’ts of tweeting; I’m sure that you’d prefer to follow my tweets from the road rather than its art critiques! On a side note, although my kulturBOT is a few years older than me, its definitely not as handsome as I am…

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