Tagged: Robots

Employees Fear Robots May Take Jobs or Does Amazon Have it Right?

Here are two very interesting articles that show the pros and cons of robots. Bottom line, it is whether you have a positive attitude toward technology and automation or you fear both technology and automation. As you have the opportunity to read the first article take note of what is causing the fear, so then when you read the second article, you can then sense that robots are helpful and do take away dangerous and boring jobs.

So, find your easy chair, pick up your iPad or laptop, grab yourself a Pepsi, Coke, or water and take a little time reading. I think you will find these fascinating.

Fears of Robots

Amazon Robots, 1,500 Humans together

Quote for the Day: “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” — Joseph Addison


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



The Rise of Robots

One of the subjects I write about in my day job is technology, robotics, and STEM. This week is a portion of a recent blog that has received several interesting comments both positive and not so positive. It provides food for thought as technology (and robots) both become more and more embraced in our daily lives.

The use of robots in many industries has more than tripled in the last five years, raising both concerns and opportunities. Will robots threaten our jobs? Our very civilization? Or will they lead to improved quality of life?

Programming skills are the backbone for the robotics industry, and robots will give rise to many new jobs – provided that humans have the skills to do them. In the U.S., President Obama has supported investment in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines in order to encourage students to pursue high-tech degrees and training. Meanwhile, researchers throughout the U.K. are concerned about finding people with the right type of skills to take robots and AI (artificial intelligence) to the next level. Countries like the U.K. feel that China and the U.S. are moving forward while it is losing ground. It was just announced that the UK will have its first UK Robotics Week from June 25 to July 1, 2016. The event is aimed at celebrating the best of UK robotics and inspiring future innovators. It includes several challenges such as school Robot challenge, Surgical Robot challenge, Autonomous Driving, and UAV challenge.

Seeking to offer reassurance about the oncoming robot renaissance, John Macintyre, professor of Adaptive Technology and faculty dean at the University of Sunderland in England stated, “Not only is it extremely unlikely that machine intelligence will overtake that of humans, but the whole field is giving rise to exciting new skills and job opportunities as developments spill out of the labs and into the real world.” He contends that popular culture has portrayed robots and AI “as a threat” instead of showcasing the good robots can bring to the human experience.


Quote for the Day: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.” — Daniel Burnham, Chicago architect”

A New name for our site – Motors and Robots are Fun

Today we have added an extra dimension to this site. The prior blog mentioned that after a few years of enjoying DC motors some people with a technical “bent” begin to feel a draw toward robotics. I went on to explain that robotics will draw mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and computer programmers together since it requires the skills of all three to bring to life a robot – whether for educational purposes, or a personal robot, or an industrial robot. As such, I have added something to the title of this website now calling it “Motors and robots are fun.”

I trust that you have enjoyed the content on building direct current (DC) motors and even the brushless DC (BLDC) motors on this site. All of the videos have provided actual, real-working motors that my children and me have built. The directions for building a basic DC motor on this site is free and can be downloaded for any boy scout, girl scout, or Science Fair participant.

Looking back over the past two years, I have noticed that robotics has crept into my writing so that is the reason why I have added it to the website. As a STEM-oriented dad, I have seen my own children move into careers where science, technology, engineering, and math are required and am glad to see them earn an above average salary. Two are in banking using spreadsheets and calculations, one is a materials engineer, and one is a mobile app developer. My only daughter is a dancer/tumbler/aerialist performer on a cruise ship and has nothing to do with STEM subjects (even though she was admitted to a major university as an engineering student!)

So, today marks a change of sorts. Hopefully, I’ll have additional content that you will like. If it piques your interest, you may invest in some of the robots that I plan on mentioning and videoing for you on this site. For instance, one of the more interesting robots is the Sphero 2.0 robot. There are now four versions rolling around homes, playgrounds, or obstacle courses today. There is the first Sphero 1.0, followed obviously by Sphero 2.0, then Sphero SPRK, and the latest which I observed a few weeks ago called the BB-8™ App-Enabled Droid™.

ijgi_sphero_bb8On the left is the BB-8 App-Enabled Droid made by Orbotix who has also made the other versions of the Sphero robot. Also, Orbotix makes a robot called Ollie which is a cylindrical robot that moves similarly to Sphero although Sphero is a sphere not a cylinder.

Orbotix’s definition of Sphero is that it is a “ball gaming system.” It’s a white-shelled waterproof ball that encases a robot that can be controlled by iOS or Android phones or tablets.

Sphero can be controlled using a number of free apps (I use the Sphero app and the Sphero Companion app from the Google Play store). It can glow more than 16 million colors and is recharged via an induction charger (the same technology used to power an electric toothbrush). Three hours of charging will give an hour’s worth of play.

You can control the ball up to 15 feet away and even use the ball’s in-built accelerometer to control action on-screen in the fun Exile game. Other apps include Draw & Drive, where the Sphero will follow the direction of whatever you etch on-screen; and Golf where your phone becomes a virtual club.

The BB-8 is a unlike any other robot. It has an adaptive personality that changes as you play. Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands. The person controlling BB-8 set it to patrol and we watched it explore autonomously around the room. He also said that he could create and view his own holographic recordings.

Here’s a brief video of my first attempt to get Sphero 2.0 activated and driving over the ramps that come with the orb. Sphero is very responsive and it moves differently on hardwood floors versus on carpets. I used an Android phone, downloaded the Sphero 2.0 app, searched for the Bluetooth connection, and when found was able to get the app working within 15 minutes. Here’s the video of the first run!




  • An easy to use robotic ball that is lots of fun. The SPRK (Schools/Parents/Robots/Kids) version adds a level of complexity. It is a see-through robot to give kids an inside look at how it works.
  • A range of apps boost interest in the robot and helps students see the relationship between


  • The cost of $125 may be too costly for some. I got mine from eBay using the “Buy it Now” for $80.

Our view: Sphero is a remote-controlled robot that is a fine first robot for both children and adults alike. It will provide hours of fun, both on land and in the water.


Quote for the Day:  “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist, the opportunity in every difficulty.” — L. P. Jacks


Another engineering major is becoming popular

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



What was the main reason why I began this blog?

This blog, Motors Are Fun, came about through one of my mentors, Dan Miller. Dan Miller is a prolific author, speaker, and coach. He has written New York Times best-selling masterpieces like 48Days to the Work You Love, No More Mondays, and Wisdom Meets Passion (which he co-authored with his son, Jared Angaza). I’ve listened to his podcasts since 2010 where he answered questions about getting a job you really enjoy, entrepreneurship, starting a business, or the myriad of questions regarding how work fits into life.


dan miller cwe

Dan Miller and Mike at Dan’s converted barn called ‘The Sanctuary’

After finally writing my goals for 2013, I decided it was time to do something about creating a Web site and looked introspectively about areas in my past that I enjoyed so much that time passed quickly. Well, as mentioned in my “About Us” video, I’ve been fascinated by what magnetism can do. I’ve always been a “maker” long before the term became popular — building tree houses, wooden go-carts, Estes rockets, model airplanes,  birdhouses, all types of model kits, mazes, and, of course, DC and BLDC motors. It seemed natural to combine my love of building small electric motors with my love of teaching. Over the past 15 months I’ve noticed my writing has moved from speaking to middle-school aged students about motors, robots, and STEM to you parents and interested parties regarding these topics. It has been a great outlet and very enjoyable and I trust you have learned something new along the way.


Quote for the Day: “An average person with average talents and ambition and average education, can outstrip the most brilliant genius in our society, if that person has clearly focused goals.” — Brian Tracy

Dad got a great toy for Christmas!

My sons and daughter went in together and gave me a wonderful Christmas gift this year.

MiP and teeter ramp

It is called a WowWee MiP robot. The MiP stands for “Mobile inverted Pendulum.” The best I could figure is that it is another way to say self-balancing. This little robot (~8″ tall) works like Dean Kamen’s Segway vehicle and uses a gyroscope to keep it balanced.

WowWee does a nice job of having the robot work right out of the box if you have four (4) triple-A (AAA) batteries available. My sons and daughter bought me the KOHL’s Special Stunt Edition with a Stunt Teeter Ramp.

Teeter ramp alone

On the outside of the box it had the battery requirements and how to install them. Everything went down just as expected.

After turning it on you will see various modes indicated by the color of of LED on the front of MiP. The default is blue which means is uses what is called GestureSense Technology. You use your hand to make the robot move forward, backward, turn right or left, or stop. It doesn’t take long to learn how to make the robot work in this mode. Here is a video from DadDoes.com to give you a flavor for how the robot works.

Some people think the Gesture mode is good basic training and then will move on to Stack mode where you have to install a tray accessory to the front of MiP. In this mode you have a few seconds to stack a heavy object or several light objects onto the top of the tray. Of course, you can use this mode without the timer.

All of the other modes – cage, tricks, roam, dance, and tracking require you to pick up MiP and turn the right or left wheel until the mode indicator changes color to the mode you want to use.

In addition to using the above modes, you can download the free app to access features or turn your smartphone into a remote control to play games or have MiP dance or in my case, roll up to the Stunt Teeter Ramp and go over it without having it fall down!

The key about using the free app is to be sure you have the right system requirements ahead of time. For instance, I bought an Android smartphone in January 2014 with Android 4.1 on it and it could not handle the app. For an Android phone you must have Android 4.3 or later. It was a bummer not being able to use it until one of my geek sons allowed me to use one of his Android phones running Android 4.4. The download was quick through Google Play and then the fun really began. Here is just a short glimpse of controlling MiP via the Android app.

(For Apple you need to have iPhone 4s or later, iPad 3, iPad Air or later, iPad mini, iPad minii Retina or later, iPad touch 5th generation, iOS 7 or later. Here is the listing of device compatibility.)

Overall, I had hours of fun playing with MiP and intend on getting to the point to fully utilize its capabilities. There is an option where you draw a path on the screen and MiP will follow it. As MiP moves along the path the app shows a virtual MiP so you can follow its progress on the screen.

If you’re a dad like me, a gift like this will be one for the ages.


Quote for the Day: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain






4-H is doing robotics?

Our family has been involved with 4-H for over 16 years. It is the largest youth development program in the U.S. and from what I understand it reaches more than seven million youth. Normally when you hear of 4-H you think of agriculture, horticulture, livestock, home economics and various clubs like the Art Club, Shooting Club, Horse and Pony Club, Four Paws Club and other interesting clubs.

Recently, our local County Agent for 4-H Youth Development went out on a limb and worked with several volunteers to start a 4-H Robotics Club. In the past, our County Agent had branched out with the 4-H National Youth Science Day that taught youth about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) projects. This latest undertaking fit in well with the STEM initiatives and in the end there were five teams that built and programmed Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robots. We spent four days getting ready for the Regional competition that were held in Clark County, Kentucky.

The anticipation of the event was like the Carly Simon song “Anticipation” that was used in a Heinz ketchup commercial. After building and programming the robots the students were ready to compete. Below are a few pictures from the competition. First there was a Sumo competition followed by lunch and then a Canyon rescue competition.

2014 0412 4H robot wc vs wcCompetitors lining up their robots for the Sumo challenge

The Sumo competition was similar to the Sumo wrestlers where each robot tries to move the other robot out of a four-foot diameter ring. The first one to move the other robot out of the ring wins that match. Best two out of three wins the match and advances to the next round. All of the volunteers had hoped that one of our teams could make it to the Elite Eight. We use that term in Kentucky because each year the University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball teams shoot for the Elite Eight or Final Four. Well, in our very first competition, two of our five teams came in number 2 and number three out of 16 teams. We were proud of their finish and dedication.

2014 0412 4h robot wc won a matchVictory!

After the Sumo challenge, each of the 16 teams had to go back and build and program their bots to move through a “canyon.” The idea was that someone was hurt in a canyon and the robot had to bring them out. In effect, it was a maze. The 4-H students were very intense and all of the building and programming and testing taxed their brains.

2014 0412 4h robotics wc teams build & programPart of the youth working diligently

The day was long and some students became tired since they had to arrive at 7:30am. However, the idea of working together as a team and having the thrill of competing made the day worthwhile. Below is a short video that shows what goes on in a Sumo competition. The excitement and noise were astounding.

This post provides several thoughts: 4-H is staying current with the latest trend toward STEM, educational robotics are enjoyed by students and adults alike, and finally, if you have not joined a robotics club, consider 4-H. You’ll be glad you did.

Finally, this post congratulates our County Agent for her involvement in reaching out to the youth in the county that need a club like this and helps the country by developing a love of STEM.

Quote for the Day: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  — Theodore Roosevelt





Why do you feature robots on a motor site?

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

Who won Kentucky’s first state robotics tournament?

Yesterday was the first annual Kentucky Robotics Championship held at the University of Louisville Student Center. This was the result of over 10 robotics tournaments held since October 2013.  It all culminated with 29 robotics teams from Kentucky middle schools and high schools competing to become the Kentucky state champs.

In the end, the alliance of two Central Hardin high school teams along with a team from Elkhorn Crossing School in Scott County won the first ever robotics championship. Congratulations to all that attended (over 500 students, parents, mentors, coaches, teachers, referees, judges, and friends) and observed the enthusiasm and tense competition among the competitors. The key people involved in getting the first ever state robotics tournament launched was Doug Klein, Engineering teacher at Elkhorn Crossing School and Gary Rivoli, University of Louisville Engineering Dean.

This was a dream come true for Doug and me. Something we have been planning for the past four years for the engineering students in Kentucky.

Below is a YouTube video of the tie-breaker at the end of the event. Just another example that STEM is alive and well in Kentucky.