A recent IDC press release stated the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing robotics market led primarily by China, Korea, and, of course, Japan. The research firm forecasts this region will account for two-thirds of global robotics spend from the years of 2016 to 2020. Also estimated was the fact this region will grow from $60 billion (B) to slightly over $133B by 2020 (a compound annual growth rate of 22%).
Robotics is reported to be able to “drive the wave of industry transformation” and disrupt many aspects of business operations and business models. One area mentioned by IDC was in the area of commercial and consumer service robotics.
As wasmentioned in this blog, the future of personal robotics looks bright, especially for the baby boomers and their parents who need the companionship, queuing (for the time to take medicines, eating, and other activities of daily living (ADLs)), and support that families need to do with their parents, but for one reason or another are not able to accomplish. The newer robots on the market seek to help families handle these functions quite well although the pricing is far out or range today.
Here is a link to the report:
A humorous story for the day:
A young technician and his General Manager board a train headed through the mountains on its way to Wichita. They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother.
After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young tech are interested in each other because they are giving each other “looks.”
Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of the smack of a kiss followed by the sound of the smack of a slap.
When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word.
The grandmother is thinking to herself: “It was very brash for that young man to kiss my granddaughter, but I’m glad she slapped him.”
The General Manager is setting there thinking: “I didn’t know the young tech was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn’t missed him when she slapped and hit me!”
The young woman was sitting and thinking: “I’m glad the guy kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!”
The young tech sat there with a satisfied smile on his face. He thought to himself: “Life is good. How often does a guy have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his General Manager all at the same time!
Can you believe it has been seven months since Christmas 2015? When I thought about it this past week, I was…well, shocked. Where has 2016 gone? The reason for considering the time since last Christmas is this article on Robotis Darwin Mini Robot. Robotis is a company that was founded in 1999 and is located in Seoul, South Korea. The name Robotis was derived from the question, “What is a robot?” To which the CEO and marketing team said a “Robot is…” and thus the company name was born as Robotis.
As a homeschooling dad I was introduced to Robotis in July 2011 through a subscription to the ROBOT Magazine. Robotis has a U.S. sales arm and through a series of events Robotis sent me two kits — one was an Ollo and the other was a Bioloid kit. They asked me to evaluate each kit and write a review. I have been very satisfied using their robot kits from ease of use and what a student could learn from assembling each kit. When I noticed they were bringing out a humanoid robot, I got excited. Most of the other humanoid robots cost thousands for dollars. I was mainly looking to find a robot that could walk, move its arms, do some tricks, can be controlled using a smartphone with Bluetooth, and had the ability to program. The Robotis Darwin Mini does all of this and more – the robot can be controlled with voice recognition, it has pre-programmed stunts and tricks, and has 16 degrees-of-freedom! Of all the robots I have built over the years, this one is my favorite.
My plan is to create a video of the finished product, use the smartphone app, and have the robot go through some of the exercises. Most probably that will be next time.
Quote for the Day: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Last Friday turned out to be one special day. A good friend of mine asked me to speak to his students about STEM careers and other topics of interest. I took my buddy, Scott, up on his request for several reasons:
- He has a class of pre-engineering students (actually I found out that he has 5 classes that he teaches during the day),
- The students are well-mannered and show keen interest in their future,
- I enjoy speaking to students on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and
- Scott has worked for IBM and Perot Systems as an electrical engineer and “retired” from both companies, then,
- He went back to get his Masters in Education – he is a real hero to me,
- Scott will be retiring from teaching after this year and I wanted him to have some of the day off.
After being introduced by Scott, I mentioned that when I first met Mr. B that I didn’t think he liked me at all, but over the years we have become best friends. One thing I have observed with students that Scott has taught over the years is after the students get in high school, they come back and let them know how much they appreciated how he taught the class and prepared them for high school. In some cases those that went on to college came back and let him know that his class is what helped them the most to do well in engineering. I encouraged these students to do the same.
After some other ‘ice breakers’ we were ready for what I loved to speak about – robots! This time I was going to show the students a timeline from when I first started teaching my sons and daughter about robots up to the present. The first robot we built was found in a Boy’s Life magazine. We called it our trash can robot (see Figure 1 for a rendition of what we were attempting to build).
The robot was a very basic wheeled robot that used two Tyco motors to drive the robot and a tethered cable tied to a control box with 4 DPDT (double pole, double throw) switches that allowed the motors for the bottom wheels to turn either direction and the motors that drove the arms to be able to turn each direction. If someone is interested in the instructions on how to build this basic yet fun tethered robot, here are the instructions.
Next, I moved on to the Lego Wall Follower Maze robot. It was one I had built to show our 4-H members a robot that could solve a maze using the ‘left hand rule.’ Lego always gets students involved especially when the robot wanders around the room looking for a wall to follow. When building a wall follower robot, most Lego enthusiasts say the ultrasonic sensor should be pointing directly in front of the robot or to the side of the robot. That never worked for me, so I built it so the ultrasonic sensor pointed forward in a 45 degree angle. The robot was the only bot that made it into and out of the maze.
Next on the agenda was a robot I took to last year’s session. It was a robot made by Wowwee called MiP (Mobile Inverted Pendulum). I wanted to get one of these robots because it is a self-balancing robot (a lot like a Segway) that has a gyroscope and an accelerometer built in. The robot was a hit because it kept making unusual sounds that kept the students attention. Here is a link to a nine minute YouTube review of the MiP robot MiP Robot
Additionally here’s a picture of the MiP robot (see Figure 2). On the left is a stunt teeter ramp where you can use the free MiP app and drive the bot up and over the ramp. You have to practice some before you can be a master roboticist. The robot is sitting on a tray accessory where you can have the MiP bot carry some light objects around. Overall, the bot has seven modes that you can make it do various tricks.
The fourth robot is my smallest robot. It is appropriately called a Wink robot that I bought from a Kickstarter project. The beauty of this robot is that you can program in Arduino, a C++ like language. The most difficult part of getting the robot to work was to download all of the files, the Arduino code, and special code the company, Plum Geek, provided. Once you get all of the files in the correct folders, it is easy to set up the correct serial port in order to create the Arduino “sketch” or programming palette.
The students really enjoyed how fast this little bot moved around the floor with the LEDs blinking different colors and also the sounds it made when it was near an obstacle. If you want something that gives you immediate feedback on your programming, the Wink is the robot for you. Below is the video that was used on the Kickstarter campaign.
My final robot is my pride and joy. My wife and children gave me this robot for Christmas 2015. It took me 103 days to start working on it due to a prior engagement working with our local 4-H Robotic Club (please see my prior posts). Once I got started on building this robot, I could not stop. It took me 3 hours to assemble the pins and another 10 hours assembling the 16 servo motors, the cables, the protective gear, and the excellent skeleton which made it look like a humanoid.
This robot is made by Robotis and it used the same pins as what was used in Ollo Explorer Kit I built a few years ago (see prior blog). After a few pins were inserted as directed in the instructions, my prior experience kicked in and it became easy to assemble. One thing you have to watch out for is ensuring you weave the cables through the proper channel. If you don’t and later when you turn it on, it might cause the wires to come loose or break.
Like the MiP robot, you can download a free app and immediately get the robot to move (if you have taken your time installing each servo correctly). I was so thrilled to see the robot come alive after I had recharged the two batteries. The same Eureka feeling I had when I built my DC motors and turned on the switch, came over me when this robot started to move.
It has several ways to get it to move and so far I have used the button mode and the voice recognition mode. I still have a lot to learn to be able to string together commands to make the robot start walking, stop and wave, do a pushup, stand up, sit down, and then do a handstand. It is really remarkable seeing it do all of these actions. It is a 16 degree-of-freedom (DOF) robot and all that is required is some imagination. Below are three pictures of the completed robot. Unfortunately, I did not have the stickers on the robot at the time of photography (see Figure 3, 4, and 5).
Overall, it was a wonderful day. It was a lot of fun and at least three students from each of four classes were able to win some king-sized chocolate candy for answering some lateral thinking problems. I left each class with six steps for each student to think about:
- Need to think about your future (by considering what you enjoyed doing when you were 12 because at age 12 what you did was what you enjoyed and you probably weren’t paid for it),
- Be open to change,
- Maintain a life-long love-of-learning,
- Be willing to help people solve their problems,
- Know you are on the earth for a God-given purpose,
It will be sad to see that Scott will retire in a few weeks, but knowing Scott, he’ll work around his home, completing honey-do lists, and then find a position that will fulfill his engineering love. He will be missed for sure.
Quote for the Day: “It just takes one idea to live like a king for the rest of your life.” — Ross Perot
As mentioned previously, our local 4-H Robotics teams headed by our fantastic 4-H agent, Ryan Farley, (see Figure 1) wrapped up a very successful year on April 16th at the District 4 Lego Robotics Competition. One of our teams, called the Kings (see Figure 2), finished as the Overall Runner-Up out of 35 beginner teams. All three teams (Aces, Kings, and Jokers (see Figure 3 and Figure 4)) finished in the top five in the Lego Sumobot Challenge, the Aces team came in second in the line follower challenge (see Figure 5), and the Jokers team came in fourth in the “tree” challenge (where they had to push the trees off the sumo ring in the shortest amount of time.
The crowd was comprised of parents, 4-H members, 4-H agents, judges, coaches, friends, and families (see Figure 6). The most exciting challenge of the day was the Sumobot challenge where each team has designed and programmed its robot to push the competitor robot out of the sumo ring (see Figure 7) This is where the crowd really got into it with whistling, clapping, and “you’ll do better next time” comments. The most difficult of the four challenges was the wall follower maze challenge (see Figure 8). Very few teams made it through the maze and most ended up exceeding the maximum amount of time.
A grand time was had by all – it was a long day, but a successful day at that. Our season ran from January until the final culminating event at the District 4 championships in the middle of April. Most teams started in October 2015 and seemed to have a head start, but this group of 4-H members applied themselves quickly to the tasks at hand and made it a priority to meet with their teams once a week for 6 weeks and for the last 5 weeks we met twice (even with Spring Break going on).
The great thing about this group of team members is that they shared their ideas on programming freely which allowed each team to have a program for each of the four challenges. This made each team a participant in each event. One mother was able to get a printout of the difficult line follower challenge which allowed each team to practice multiple times before entering the event. This gave each team confidence going to the event.
This was the first year that we used Lego Mindstorms EV3 (Evolution 3) robot kits with the new LabView software. The assembly did not take much time at all, but the programming required new thought processing with the ability to figure out all of the programming palettes. It took a few weeks understanding how to move around the software to feel comfortable with it. A few years ago, our teams used the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robot kits that had a down level version of the LabView software. This latest version is by far the best programming environment we have ever had.
When most people think of 4-H, they think of agriculture so when they heard that we were going to re-start a Robotics Club they were confused. 4-H is moving on, looking to becoming a part of all students lives, whether in Agriculture or even in robotics. Who knows? Maybe 4-H will consider robotic drones someday so farmers can see the results of fertilizers they have used.
A recent press release by International Data Corporation (IDC) has forecast that global spend on robotics and associated services are expected to increase from $71 billion (B) to over $135B in 2019, a 17 percent CAGR (compound annual growth rate). Robotics is one of Innovation Accelerators (coined by IDC) for the future. The other “accelerators”mentioned are: Augmented & Virtual Reality, Cognitive Systems, Internet of Things (IoT), Next Gen Security, and 3D Printing.
Figure 1: Sony’s AIBO (Artificial Intelligence RoBOt) Dog
This forecast includes global spending on robotics systems that includes consumer, industrial, and service robots. Although it is expected to grow over $31B in 2019, the services-related spend that includes consulting, education, training, systems integration will grow over $32B becoming the largest and fastest-growing area of robotics spending even beyond the spend on servers/storage and software.
Once again, consulting agencies are forecasting strong growth in another STEM industry that will appeal to those that want to help better humanity.
Quote for the Day: “If you want to get to the top, you must first get off your bottom.” — Khan Wong
This blog post is our 51st post on the Motors and Robots are Fun website. I would like to take a moment to thank all of you for following this blog. It has been a labor of love. When I started this blog the decision was made not to monetize it by having blog ads and I plan on keeping it that way. Now onto the latest blog.
A few years ago our local county extension agent started a 4-H Lego Robotics Club. The club met for a couple of months to learn about robots and to prepare for the District competition. At that time we used the Lego Mindstorms 2.0 kits to make the driving base for the Sumo Bot competition and for the Canyon competition. Our members did very well in both competitions and enjoyed meeting new members from the other counties. Our teams loved getting together and ended up going to the State Fair to compete. After that season was over, our agent got promoted and went to the local university. She was replaced by a new agent who had to learn the ropes and the Lego Robotics club was put on hold.
Well, the Lego Robotics club is back this year and its members are really excited about using Lego’s latest robotics kit, the Lego EV3 system. During our first meeting we reviewed the various learning points of the robotics club, introduced the latest District robotics competition, viewed some examples of real robots like the Lego Mindstorms 2.0 MindCuber robot, the Wowwee MiP (Mobile Inverted Pendulum) self-balancing robot, and the R2D2 toy robot, and then covered the definition of a robot by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).
The RIA defines robot using four main terms. A robot must…
- be programmable. A robot must have instructions that can be changed by the student-operator.
- be automatic. A robot must be able to work by itself.
- be a multi-faceted machine. A robot must be able to do different jobs by changing its parts or changing its program.
- be able to sense its surroundings. A robot must have sensors that provide feedback to the microprocessor.
We used these four parts of the robot definition and decided that a light switch and a washing machine did not fit the robot definition so our members got the idea it is more than a motor, or a machine, or a switch to turn things on and off. Joseph Engelberger, the “Father of Robotics” said, “I can’t define a robot, I just know when I see one.” By the end of this season we expect that each of our 12+ members will be able to do the same. I plan to document our robotics season over the next four months so stay tuned!
Quote for the Day: “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~ Charlie Chaplin
Ever since robots came on the scene there has been fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about what robotics will do for the future of jobs. Some have predicted, surmised, and guessed about the types of jobs that could and would be in jeopardy. Some futuristic thinkers have completed in-depth studies (some over 150 pages long) that read like a scholarly book. If you ask people, “Will robots take over your job?” You’ll probably have some of them look at you like a cow looking at a new fence. Most people don’t consider that robots have gotten to the point of taking over jobs. Of course, most of the research and development of robots has been to support humans in dangerous jobs (like cleanup of the Fukushima reactor), military jobs, and robotic surgery. Additionally, over the past two or three years there has been the emergence of home robots. Many of these will create havoc for awhile until people see the benefits of making changes to their lifestyles and eventually most will come to understand how they ever got along with a home robot.
As mentioned in previous posts, the future is now and it is important that students seek to learn to program in order to stay current in the world they live in now and in the future.
However, it is undeniable that some jobs are more ripe to be replaced by robots than others. Amy Webb, a digital media futurist and founder of Webbmedia Group predicts that there are at least eight career fields that are ripe for disruption and could fade away within the next 10 to 20 years. As parents look to guide their sons and daughters they may want to consider having them look at other jobs not in these fields:
- Toll booth operators and cashiers
- Customer service
- Factory workers
- Financial middle men
- Phone workers
“You should be quite worried,” Webb said at the Milliken Global Conference about selecting these positions for a career. We should not fear the future and should not be pessimistic about it. “We need highly-skilled plumbers and highly-skilled people in all types of field we no longer venerate,” Webb said.
We will take up other discussions in future blogs.
Quote for the Day: “Can anybody remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Direct current (DC) motors appeal to mechanical engineers and electrical engineers because of the design properties involved in manufacturing and applying these motors in real world problems. After a few years of enjoying DC motors some people with a technical “bent” begin to feel a draw toward robotics. Robotics appeals to mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and computer programmers. Each of these career options are involved in the design and manufacturing of a robot that can do a specific task. Some robots can do more than one task which might require a degree in robotics engineering. Robotics engineering is an up-and-coming degree that has a real future. Currently, there are seven leading schools that have robotics engineering degrees. These universities appear to be on the cutting edge and offer bachelors, masters, or PhD degrees. There are about 25 other schools in the U.S. that offer robotics education that are competing for some analytical and imaginative students as well.
- Carnegie-Mellon University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of Georgia
- University of Southern California
- Columbia University
- Washington University in St. Louis
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Of course, interest in robotics drives demand. And interest comes from students and parents that have looked at jobs as Robotics Engineers. Here are a few facts:
- Employment growth is expected to be 7-13 percent through 2018
- It is projected that over 50,000 jobs are to be available from 2008 to 2018
- Robotics will become the next computer industry
- Robots will begin to replace processes such as manufacturing, security, and even household chores
- The annual median wage is $90,300 for a Robotics Engineer
Sources: Bls.gov and Sokanu.com
Finally, a typical day for a Robotics Engineer would include:
- Performing research of robotic systems
- Designing, building, configuring, and testing robots
- Designing software programs and systems
- Reviewing cost estimates and return on investment
- Designing automated robots and automated robotic systems
If these topics interest you while in middle school or high school it would be good if you were able to get involved in a robotics club of some sort. One of the most popular today is VEX robotics which each year comes out with different competitions that are played on a 12 foot by 12 foot field for VEX middle school or high school challenges.
Each competition includes an alliance of some sort to encourage teamwork, sensors, programming, and an autonomous mode. The competitions are held at various schools and eventually VEX holds a Vex Worlds Tournament. Last year it was held in Louisville, KY and prior to that it was held in Anaheim, CA. Some students (and parents) make a vacation out of competition and since it is a world tournament meet new friends. Indeed, the world is “flat” these days.
Here’s the video posted by VEX for its Worlds Tournament. Enjoy!
Quote for the Day: “There are two types of people – anchors and motors. You want to lose the anchors and get with the motors because the motors are going somewhere and they’re having fun. The anchors will just drag you down.” — Wyland, marine artist
At our last Advisory Board meeting for Elkhorn Crossing School (ECS) in Scott County, KY one of the local engineers started speaking about an “AMT” program. Most of the other engineering Board members seemed to understand all about this AMT program. Since the conversation was going strong I didn’t want to interrupt and ask what does AMT stand for. The banter went on for about 15 minutes while the benefits and advantages of the program were being discussed. It sounded like a program that any aspiring STEM student that had a bent toward engineering would love.
One of the major discussion items concerned those students that had competed for and eventually got into the ECS pre-engineering curriculum. It was felt those students wanted to go on to college and receive their Bachelors of Science in some field of engineering and weren’t really interested in this AMT program. Others thought the AMT program was a very powerful program that met a need for a variety of students who wanted to be challenged on a daily basis to problem solve. In addition, the program met a need for local manufacturing companies to prepare students to understand design concepts and utilize higher order thinking skills in areas such as electronics, motor controls, sensors, and robotics. Plus it was set up to provide high-paying jobs. Along the way, the AMT program provided an Associates degree.
Now that I have given you several clues, do you know what AMT stands for?
Here’s a few more clues. Toyota Motor Manufacturing and Bluegrass Community and Technical College have partnered to provide the curriculum and hands-on training. All of the classes are held at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, KY. The plant is the size of 156 football fields. Just about all of the students that complete the AMT program end up with a very good-paying and enjoyable job. The starting salary if you graduate from this program approaches $65,000/year. With overtime, a person can come home with as much as $80,000. “That’s more than the median starting salary for graduates of the highest-earning bachelor’s degree programs in the United States, according to a recent report by PayScale.”
So, now you must know what the acronym, “AMT” stands for. It stands for Advanced Manufacturing Technician. The manufacturing industry competes for skilled workers just like the healthcare, financial, construction, and professional services industries. In the past, manufacturing plants were considered “hot and dirty” and conjured up images of steel or textiles mills. Today, in order to recruit employees, factories are generally clean, cool, and well lit – mainly because robots (and people) don’t work well in hot and dirty environments.
The AMT program is a program that gives students a definite direction in their lives. When students ask what they can get out of the program, student advisers can give them a specific answer and will not have to beat around the bush. With the price of college education continuing to increase year-by-year, one of the best programs I have seen that benefits the person and the company is this AMT program. Here is a link to a wonderful article on the AMT program in Kentucky.
Quote for the Day: “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” — Brian Tracy
As mentioned in past posts, I love to build things, especially small direct current (DC) motors. There is a fascination designing the motor, collecting the parts, building the motor, and seeing it work for the first time. It reminds me of a cardboard puzzle where you search for all the pieces, put them together correctly, and when it is completed you have such satisfaction seeing the end result.
So it is with a robot. Robots use various types of motors as well. Some use basic DC motors that are controlled by a small microprocessor (sometimes called an electronic brain) that you program. These motors spin freely and can get to a high revolutions per minute (rpm). Some need a gearbox or variable speed motor controllers to work properly. Other motors used in a robot are called geared motors, ungeared motors, brushless motors, and servo motors. Each can be designed for a specific application.
When I went to college, robotics was not part of our curriculum. We worked with vibration damping, fluid flow, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), statics, dynamics, machine design, metallurgy, etc. to understand certain principles for design. Today, robotics has expanded to just about all college engineering schools and is a popular course for many students. It is one of the best ways to integrate mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science into one package.
If your middle school or high school has a robotics class or after school activity like VEX Robotics or Lego Mindstorms or Robotis, I would highly recommend that you give it a try. This website will help you get the basics about DC motors, however, the application of motors and using motors for a worthwhile project is the next step up from learning about motors.
Quote for the day: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas A. Edison