Robotics

Courtesy RedZone Robotics

Robots are everywhere nowadays: playing Scrabble, entering disaster zones, even gambling. Now they’re also inspecting city sewers.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority teamed with RedZone Robotics to use robots to examine Pittsburgh’s sewage lines.

Courtesy of Tartan Rescue, Carnegie Mellon University

He can turn a wheel, pick up blocks, maneuver stairs and drive a car. He's also a 5-foot tall, 443-pound robotic monkey.

CHIMP, an acronym for CMU Highly Intelligent Mobile Platform, was developed by the Tartan Rescue Team, a group of engineers, researchers and technicians within CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center. The team will compete next month for a $2 million first prize in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, or DRC, in Pomona, Calif. against two dozen others.

Toby Atticus Fraley

The robots are taking over — starting with Pittsburgh International Airport.

If Pittsburgh artist Toby Fraley gets his way, Southwest Airlines passengers arriving at gate 15 in the airport’s A Concourse will be among the first to meet them.

Ryan Stanton/Flickr

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Acts. Reauthored in 2001 and now more widely known as No Child Left Behind, the law will be getting a major rewrite in 2015. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia covers the changes coming to the most enduring education legislation that Congress has ever passed. 

Eskelsen Garcia says the complaints of parents and teachers have provided a chance to make major changes to the acts.

"We have an opportunity because more and more members of Congress might have an open mind about ending this test-and-punish routine and replacing it with better information."-Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Also today, we explore the idea of technological fluency, and civil rights activist and UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski works to institute minorities in STEM-related careers. 


Walt Urbina / Courtesy Photo

With women earning less than 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in physics, engineering and computer science, some might consider Becca Volk an anomaly, but among her teammates on Pittsburgh’s all-female Girls of Steel competitive robotics team, Volk fits right in. The 16 yr. old junior at Avonworth High School knows she wants to be an engineer someday.

On March 28, Girls of Steel won the Chairman’s Award at the Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Cleveland, which qualifies the team to compete in the FRC Championship April 22-25 in St. Louis.

Could Pittsburgh make self-driving cars mainstream?

If it’s up to Carnegie Mellon University and Uber, the answer to that question is yes.

Carnegie Mellon University has partnered with the ride-sharing company to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

At a lab in Carnegie Mellon University's Field Robotics Center, dozens of goggle-clad teenage girls are drilling, hammering and writing code.

They’re the Girls of Steel, and the goal is to build the mind and body of a robot in the next few weeks. Then the girls — and their robot — will enter robotics competitions.

Jessica Nath / 90.5

John Mann’s class project this semester will be sent to the moon next year.

The Carnegie Mellon University computer science student, along with about 30 other students, is taking part in a class called Mobile Robot Design that centers on constructing a moon rover named “Andy.”

Mann said the students are split into groups, each with a particular job.

“I primarily do software, particularly software related to driving Andy and getting and displaying information from Andy,” Mann said.

Robots Are Big Business in the Burgh

Sep 23, 2014
oomlaut / Flickr

In a November 1999 article the Wall Street Journal dubbed Pittsburgh “Robo-burgh.” The city is one of a handful of locations in the U.S. leading in the development of robotics technology. This week contributor Rebecca Harris looks at the business of robotics.

Charlee Song / 90.5 WESA News

Hand washing, floor scrubbing, sterilizing instruments--all standard techniques to thwart hospital-acquired infections.  Now UPMC hospitals are evaluating new technology to help prevent infections.  At Passavant Hospital, staff is using a robot to help sanitize a room with ultraviolet-C rays.  Fittingly, the robot’s name is “Violet”.

Dr. Joseph Romano, chairman of the Passavant Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committee, said "Violet" is turned on after a room has been disinfected in the usual way. 

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A Drone...Is Pittsburgh Ready?

Jul 8, 2014
unten44 / flickr

On June 26, cameras at PNC Park caught a mysterious flying object hovering over the field during a Pirates game. The object hung in the night sky with a blinking light and several propellers whirling.

It didn’t take long for the commentators to surmise that this UFO was actually a remote controlled drone, whose owner was soon spotted walking on the North Shore.

Police almost immediately forced the man to ground his flying camera, and the FAA launched an investigation the week after.

Drones are becoming a bigger part of the everyday lives of American citizens, especially in a city famous for its robotic creations. Joining us to look at the role drones will play in our future is Illah Nourbaksh, professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the recently released book Robot Futures. He explained what made the drone over PNC Park different from the remote controlled toy helicopters we've seen marketed for years.

90.5 WESA

Ethan Welker is a 15-year-old freshman at the University School, a private college prep school in Shadyside. His mom Michele Welker says he’s a smart and curious boy.

“Around the age of 7, he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s,” Michele said. “(Asperger’s is) one of the higher functioning levels of the spectrum.”

Courtesy Carnegie Mellon University

Victor sits in the lounge of Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science building ready to take on anyone in a game of Scrabble.

He’s cocky, and his taunts can be heard across the room.

“Is that all you’ve got?” he shouts from behind his virtual Scrabble board.

Victor has an attitude not atypical of a 17-year-old college freshman. But here's the thing: He’s a robot.

Created by Reid Simmons, a research professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute, Victor is the latest in a series of social robots designed as a tool to study human-robot interaction.

POLITICO Kicks Off Editorial Series Starting With Pittsburgh

Feb 4, 2014
MARK PETERSON/REDUX / POLITICO.com

POLITICO kicked off a yearlong, editorial series Tuesday, showcasing innovative ideas from cities across the nation and how they can be re-engineered for Washington.

POLITICO Editor Susan Glasser explained why Pittsburgh is the first city featured.

Health & Innovation Highlights in 2013

Dec 26, 2013
UPMC

From robotic arms to treating high blood pressure, in 2013 we delved into many stories dealing with health innovation.

We'll revisit our conversation with Dr. Michael Boninger and a quadriplegic woman named Jan Scheuermann. A robotic arm surgically attached to her brain allows her to perform basic tasks with focused thought.

Lawrenceville Robotics Company Expands

Aug 28, 2013

Carnegie Robotics, a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Center, is expanding its headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Lawrenceville.

Currently housed in CMU incubator facilities, the company plans to move into the 31,000 square-foot former Heppenstall building between 43rd and 48th streets.

President and CEO John Bares said the company outgrew its current space.

What’s two inches in diameter, four-foot-long and can find a leak in the most remote area of a failing nuclear power plant? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say it's one of their snake-like robots. 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is celebrating “VA Research Week,” highlighting the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories at Bakery Square, where robotic technology is being used to improve the mobility and function of people with disabilities.  

The KitchenBot can be programmed to make an entire meal; the Cueing Kitchen is a cabinet layout with appliances that gives audio prompts to those with cognitive disabilities so they can function in the kitchen.

Pondering a Life with Robots

May 2, 2013
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Through recent artistic conceptions, we explore a world of advanced robotics and consider the philosophical questions one might ponder if robots were a part of everyday life. Essential Pittsburgh Production Assistant Rebekah Zook  and WESA reporter Margaret Krauss visited Fraley's Robot Repair Shop in its final week Downtown and we spoke with Japanese contemporary theater Director Oriza Hirata at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Frisbee-throwing robots are the main event in a competition at Pitt’s Peterson Events Center Friday and Saturday.