Robotics

Carnegie Mellon University

Robots are able to perform a wide variety of tasks, from providing companionship to senior citizens to searching for survivors in the rubble of an earthquake, but they can't always reflect on how well they performed. 

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Robots are becoming increasingly important in our lives, but robotics research can be time-consuming and expensive. A local company wants to offer flexibility for researchers in the field and help them test ideas more quickly.

Provided photo / Carnegie Mellon University

Beginning this fall, Carnegie Mellon University will offer an undergraduate degree in artificial intelligence, the first of its kind available in the U.S.

The expansion announced Thursday is an effort to meet the growing demand for AI experts.

Facebook recently announced it had hired two CMU professors to open a new AI lab in Pittsburgh. One of those professors will continue to teach while the other will spend most of his time with the social media company.

Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ

Robots designed by teams of teens from 53 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania will compete in a two-day, gladiator-style tournament starting Friday.

The aim of the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ competition, which is being hosted at California University of Pennsylvania, is to get high schoolers to think creatively and collaboratively, while also exposing them to careers in manufacturing.

BotsIQ executive director Michel Conklin said the robots are judged on a variety of criteria.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Wherever Amazon chooses to locate its second North American headquarters, or HQ2, the company expects to hire 50,000 people over the next 10 to 15 years.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh-area robotics and 3-D printing companies displayed their designs as part of a preview of the Hazelwood Green’s Mill 19 facility.

The former steel mill will soon be the home to the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute, a public-private partnership between Carnegie Mellon University, community stakeholders and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are hoping to help pedestrians with disabilities cross intersections more safely.

Their research project makes up the latest phase in the 5-year-old smart traffic signals initiative centered in East Liberty, where wait times for vehicles have been reduced by 40 percent.

In the first year of the project, researchers will focus on building an app that pedestrians could have on their smart phones.

The app would send personalized data about that individual’s movement patterns to a smart traffic signal at an intersection.

Carnegie Mellon University / YouTube

 

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are using the centuries-old concept of a telescope to develop new structures that could increase robots' flexibility and versatility in the future.

 

A telescoping structure is made of nested pieces which slide in and out of one another to different lengths. A classic, if outdated, example would be a pirate or sailor’s retractable telescope. Today, some ladders, umbrellas and tentpoles also use this technology.

Not coincidentally, these applications all share a common trait.

U.S. Factory Jobs Are High-Tech, But The Workers Are Not

Aug 16, 2017
John Minchillo / AP

Herbie Mays is 3M proud, and it shows — in the 3M shirt he wears; in the 3M ring he earned after three decades at the company's plant in suburban Cincinnati; in the way he shows off a card from a 3M supervisor, praising Mays as "a GREAT employee."

But it's all nostalgia.

Mays' last day at 3M was in March. Bent on cutting costs and refocusing its portfolio, the company decided to close the plant that made bandages, knee braces and other health care supplies and move work to its plant in Mexico.

Best Robotics

The national robotics education nonprofit Best Robotics is moving its headquarters to Pittsburgh.

Thousands of students participate in Best Robotics competitions annually, spending six weeks building robots with real world potential.

“Every year there's an industry theme for the competition,” said executive director Rosemary Mendel. “Last year, it was agriculture; this year, it's fire and rescue.”

The idea is to train the future tech workforce and get more kids excited about pursuing careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh's reputation as a center for engineering innovation is largely due to Angel Jordan, according to his friends and colleagues.

Jordan, the former Provost of Carnegie Mellon University and founder of its Robotics Institute, died Friday at the age of 86. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

RE2 Robotics first spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 to build off-road vehicles for the U.S. Department of Defense, but now its researchers are working to develop the next generation of robotic arms.

The 40 people who work at the Lawrenceville-based company now focus on building arms for robots used to defuse improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

More than 30 ambassadors to the U.S. from around the world were in Pittsburgh this week, touring research laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. They also rubbed elbows with local luminaries at the Andy Warhol Museum, including Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Chris Stalnaker

A handheld device that can detect bedsores is one of the designs aiming for a $50,000 grand prize at AlphaLab Gear’s Hardware Cup next month.

 

The device was designed by a team named Rubitection, which beat out six other groups and took home a $3,000 prize at the Mid-Atlantic regional qualifier last month.

 

The start-up incubator, located in East Liberty, is hosting the innovation contest for its third year.

 

Other designs included a robotic material-sorting waste bin and an assistive video-game controller for people in wheelchairs.

 

Jessica Nath / 90.5 WESA

A nonprofit consortium founded and led by Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University is receiving more than $250 million to launch American Robotics, a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing new technology.

Most of the money, $173 million, is coming from more than 200 public, private and academic partners, while the Department of Defense is chipping in $80 million in matching funds.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

When students at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA are gone for the weekend, an app-controlled robot can now drop food pellets into their fish tank.

“We thought, what would you like to do?” said Russ White, vice president of technology strategy for Development Dimensions International. “Through talking to them we thought there’s probably a solution there.”   

Flex Robotics System

Developed here in the Steel City, the Flex Robotic System could be a game changer when it comes to surgeries. We’ll discover the impact it could have on patients, hospital systems and more with James Jordan, vice president and chief investment officer at Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

Uber / uber.com

Imagine it’s the future and you’re riding down the road in your autonomous vehicle when suddenly it starts to downpour. Your vehicle wakes you up, says they don’t feel comfortable driving in the conditions and hand you the wheel. That responsible robotic action is one of the thoughts behind a recent workshop that examined how engineers can create safe and controlled artificial intelligence technologies. William Scherlis, director of the Institute for Software Research in Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science joins us to talk about the concept and the dialogue at the workshop.

Using 'Surgery Robots' To Perform Minimally Invasive Procedures

Apr 7, 2016
Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Since the introduction of robot-assisted surgery in the early 1980s, engineers and medical professionals have been working to perfect the technology and increase public awareness of the machine’s benefits. As part of its mall walkers program, the Westmoreland Mall invited health professionals from Excela Health to explain the purpose and workings of one of their most advanced robots, the DaVinci surgical system. Essential Pittsburgh’s Katie Blackley spoke with physicians James Longhi and Michael Szwerc about their experience with DaVinci and minimally invasive surgery.

Exploring Pittsburgh's Future As A Leader In Robotics

Apr 7, 2016
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is known as a leader in the steel, sports, livability, and…robotics?  As the technology and robotics field continues to expand, entrepreneurs and start-up companies have flocked to Pittsburgh for a chance to work with cutting-edge researchers and generous investors. 

Recently, the Pittsburgh-based Alpha Lab Gear hosted an event with the MIT Enterprise Forum to draw attention to the exciting happenings regionally in the field of robotics.

Carnegie Mellon University

Autonomous robots could handle and dispose of waste from nuclear sites as part of a robotics traineeship program between Carnegie Mellon University and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming, But They’re Not Ready For Pittsburgh Yet

Mar 4, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Ninety percent of car crashes are preventable.

As it stands, about 30,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States, said Mark Kopko of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT]. “If you could reduce that by 90 percent, that’s huge.”

Autonomous cars have the capacity to do that.

In Allegheny County, that could mean a vast reduction in the roughly 12,000 crashes in 2014 — especially of those attributed to driver error, like drunk or distracted driving and speeding.

'Scrubba' Designed To Clean Large Buildings, Like Giant Roomba

Jan 5, 2016
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

Small, autonomous, robotic vacuums like Roomba, Botvac and others revolutionized tidying for the average at-home cleaner. Four inventors in Oakland want to do the same with an industrial-scale robotic janitor built to sweep and mop big spaces like malls and airports.

On a recent evening, Discovery Robotics’ inventors gave the boxy, blue, metal prototype a trial run as engineer Naman Kumar looked on. In his hand was a remote garage door opener programmed to start or stop "Scrubba" and its 300-pound heft.

CMU's Robotics Institute

Whether it's used for a robot to help out around the house or for a prosthesis, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a three-fingered soft robotic hand with multiple embedded fiber optic sensors.

Each finger of the hand contains 14 fiber optic sensors.

“[They] basically detect very small strain changes, so when you stretch a little bit or you compress it detects the strain changes,” said Yong-Lae Park, assistant professor in CMU’s Robotic Institute

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.

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