My Family Knows Their Dad

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

 

 

Three studies say robots will take other people’s job, not their own

Three studies from well-known companies have been released regarding robots. These three studies seem to indicate that American people believe that robots will replace jobs, “but mine is safe.” The first survey was released by Pew Research Center said that 65 percent of people think that computers and robots will do most of the work currently done by humans over the next 50 years. The most interesting aspect is that 80 percent of these same people believe their job is totally safe.

The second study by NPR mentioned the jobs that most probably would be replaced by robots, On top of the list were people who work in customer care centers aka call centers. These positions were deemed to be first of all jobs that would be replaced, other jobs were tax-document preparers, loan officers, and, get a load of this – umpires and referees, vehicle drivers, and a surprising one that I have not read before – fashion models. This probably has to do with 3D printers and the ability for roboticists to create robot models that can walk the runway.

This past May, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), said that drones have the high probability to replace $129 billion worth of human labor! These would be jobs related to agriculture, security, and transport. It’s pretty fascinating that people on the ground can get a bird’s eye view of corn fields, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, oil fields, transportation facilities and even major road projects major projects – all due to drones.

Where does all this lead us? The author surmises that the U.S. will have to consider an idea called “basic income” in which people will receive a monthly check on top of their existing income. The economist’s think tanks believe that people will provide less value with their labor and will need to have income coming from another area. I am not in this camp. This is pure and simple ‘redistribution of wealth’ which makes a society soft and complacent.

Unfortunately, the attitude of some people today is entitlement and those men and women that have taken risks to build businesses that employ people are the target of the ‘have-nots.’ Those people love to talk abut taxing the rich to support their ‘survivalist’ lifestyle. This is ludicrous. It all starts in the home at an early age where kids learn responsibility, respect, honesty, integrity, and the need to take care of people less fortunate. (The home needs to have parents that love their children and discipline them to raise them as solid citizens. There is much that needs to be done in this area that needs to be discussed, but it is not part of this website). However, there are plenty of jobs available that need the above qualities – the entitlement attitude prevents these people from becoming employees. There are now 11 states that now have more people on welfare than that are working: California, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Maine, and South Carolina. This is really sad. No wonder companies are looking to employ robots – robots arrive on time, they don’t take breaks, they work, they don’t complain, and they are accurate. When a robot needs to be reprogrammed or replaced, its master, the human technician is there to do so.

Healthcare and STEM careers seem to be the promise of the future. Consider these as you direct your children to their future careers.

 

Quote for the Day: “Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb. You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.” — Hugh Macleod

One Very Special Day at Scott County 9th Grade Classes

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).

Figure 1 - Boy's Life Robot

Figure 1Boy’s Life Robot

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.

February 1987 Boys Life Build a Robot

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.

Figure 2 - Wowwee MiP robot with Stunt Teetor Totter

Figure 2 – Wowwee MiP robot with Stunt Teeter Ramp

 

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.

Wink Robot

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).

Figure 3 - Completely Assembled Robotis Mini Darwin Robot

Figure 3 – Completely Assembled Robotis Mini Darwin Robot

 

Figure 4 - Mini Darwin robot Sitting Down

Figure 4 – Mini Darwin Robot Sitting Down

 

Figure 5 - Mini Darwin Robot Bowing Using Free App

Figure 5 – Mini Darwin Robot Greeting Each Student Using Free App

 

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:

  1. 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),
  2. Be open to change,
  3. Maintain a life-long love-of-learning,
  4. Be willing to help people solve their problems,
  5. Know you are on the earth for a God-given purpose,
  6. Think

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

 

Our 4-H Members had Success at the District 4 Championships

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.

 

Figure 1 - 4H Robotics Members

Figure 1 – 4H Robotics Members

 

Figure 2 - 4H Robotics Team Kings

Figure 2 – 4H Robotics Team  – Kings and Herman Smith (inventor of the four District 4 challenges)

 

Figure 3 - 4H Robotics Team - Aces

Figure 3 – 4H Robotics Team – Aces

 

Figure 4 - 4H Robotics Team - Jokers

Figure 4 – 4H Robotics Team – Jokers

 

Figure 5 - 4H Robotics Challenge - Line Follower

Figure 5 – 4H Robotics Challenge – Line Follower

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.

Figure 7 - The audience exceeded 200 people

Figure 6 – The audience exceeded 200 people

 

Figure 7 - The Sumobot Challenge had the Greatest Crowd Enthusiasm

Figure 7 – The Sumobot Challenge had the Greatest Crowd Enthusiasm

 

Figure 8 - The Most Difficult of All Challenges - The Maze

Figure 8 – The Most Difficult of All Challenges – The Maze

 

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.

 

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Tomorrow our 4H Robotics club travels to a neighboring county to take part in our District’s Robotic Challenge. The Robotics challenge is comprised of four events all related to robots made by Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 or Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics kits.

When we first arrive at the venue in a middle school in central Kentucky, we will be presented with challenges based on Civil War Treasure Hunts. The first three are called the Alleghan Hall Riches, the Harpe Brothers Treasure, and the Union Payroll Heist. These three events test the 4H member’s ability to program a wall follower robot that goes into a maze and returns, the second one is a line follower that has a lot of sharp turns, however, if you code your robot correctly, you can take short cuts and get more points. The final treasure event involves putting a robot in the middle of a sumo ring and have it programmed where it will seek and find ‘trees’ and move them off the sumo ring in the shortest amount of time.

The final event of the day is usually the most exciting. It is a sumobot challenge where each team (of 3 or 4 students) build and program their robot to seek and find the other competitor on a sumo ring and move them off the ring. This has always been one of the best attended events at the district championships. So, our robots are built and most have been programmed. Some of our members have not had the time to actually test out some of their bots thoroughly, but the enthusiasm will be sky high.

Check back next week to find out our results!

 

Quote of the Day:”“It may be that those who do most, dream most.”-Stephen Leavock

Is there a ‘best’ way to use automation in business?

In a recent article, CIO Magazine attempts to answer this question using artificial intelligence (AI). The ensuing discussion comes down to what Andy Wilton, chief information officer  (CIO) at Claranet said about how CIOs should always be on the lookout for ways to reduce expensive resources. An example he gives is that of a “cloud-hosted AI answering machine” that can listen, recognize, and then respond to a person asking a question or speaking. His take is by installing this automation in a customer call service center, it can replace the repetitive process that drives agents to leave. Customer calls centers have high turnover and in the case of Xerox, it costs $5,000 to train a good call center agent. Anyway you can help eliminate problems and help the customer will be positive for the company and for its customers.

Wilton goes on to say, “Earlier in my career, when I worked as a system administrator, my mantra was ‘once, twice, then automate’, and this holds true today,” he says. “Any CIO’s time is precious and manually repeating operations is simply a waste of time. The development of a scheme to automate and improve repetitive tasks is a huge value proposition, and is a key ambition of any CIO.” Here is the link to the article.

Embedded in the above article is a separate article that has forecasted the first 10 jobs that will be automated by AI and robots. Here is their prognostication. You may want to consider finding another career for your children. It reminds me of those that used to make buggy whips. They had to find a new way to create income and that is what needs to be done for the future.

  1. Assembly line worker
  2. Field technician
  3. Call center worker
  4. Sorter
  5. Data entry
  6. Insurance underwriter
  7. Tax preparer
  8. Sales representative
  9. Translator
  10. Fast food employee

We should not be afraid of the future, we should be prepared by being well read and make the decision now to ensure you can be gainfully employed.

 

Quote for the Day: “The world doesn’t pay you for what you know; it pays you for what you do.” — Jack Canfield, author The Success Principles

 

 

Worldwide Spend on Robotics Estimated to Reach $135B by 2019

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.

 

Sony's Aibo Dog Robot

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

4-H Lego Robotics Club is back again!

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…

  1. be programmable. A robot must have instructions that can be changed by the student-operator.
  2. be automatic. A robot must be able to work by itself.
  3. be a multi-faceted machine. A robot must be able to do different jobs by changing its parts or changing its program.
  4. 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

 

Is your job at risk?

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:

  1. Toll booth operators and cashiers
  2. Marketers
  3. Customer service
  4. Factory workers
  5. Financial middle men
  6. Journalists
  7. Lawyers
  8. 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

 

 

Robotics is a Sport for the 21st century

Within two weeks of each other, a couple of authors penned articles related to robotics becoming a sanctioned high school sport and a second article dedicated to how Ohio is using the VEX Robotics competition to increase interest in STEM and future jobs. In the second article, Ritch Ramey recounts the growth of the number of high school, middle school, and elementary school VEX teams in Ohio. This demonstrates the interest in robotics especially when the teams winning the Ohio State Championships are able to participate in the World Championships that will be held in April 2016 in Louisville, KY. Past locations for the World Tournament have been Orlando, FL and Anaheim, CA.

The first article, which was of great interest to me due to its long-range effect on sports, was how Texas, Connecticut, and Minnesota are championing initiatives to allow robotics teams to be recognized as “sports” teams in these states. There are some benefits that would be effected such as support from school executives, incentives for teacher-mentors, and the ability to receive sports letters for participating. Robotics teams, like sports teams, do exhibit qualities such as teamwork, solving problems, division of labor, and competitive spirit.

Ramey ends his article with a picture and a phrase, “The Workforce of the Future!”  I’d say the future is now.

 

Quote for the Day: “Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr., Writer