Aurora, Advanced Construction Robotics and BirdBrain Technologies might seem to have little in common. Yet they were all in the same room for the Pittsburgh Robotics Network’s inaugural Discovery Day event.
While taking in the robots and the booths Wednesday, Technical.ly spoke to leaders from all three companies — a public, 1,600-employee (as of September 2021) autonomous vehicle leader; a construction robotic equipment startup; and a small company that sells educational robotics kits for kids, respectively — and learned why they showed up to represent the dynamic local industry.
In the case of Aurora, Manager of Brand Experiences and Events Mallory Fuhrer said that the company felt it was important to be seen — and indeed, its setup would have been hard to ignore with the self-driving truck in tow.
Fuhrer added that it was necessary to remind the region that Pittsburgh was a robotics hub. Not only that, but it was a chance to show the public that self-driving cars weren’t the only part of the AV industry.
“I hope that they learned a little bit more about self-driving technology, not just in passenger vehicles, but also in trucking because I feel like that’s not something that you see too much of,” Fuhrer said.
Advanced Construction Robotics similarly took a larger-than-life approach by bringing its autonomous rebar tying robot, aka the TyBOT. According to cofounder and President Jeremy Searock, the company wanted to show off the TyBOT to display a less backbreaking method of construction.
“Currently the state-of-the-art [method] is people bending over all day with pliers in order to tie the rebar together, so TyBOT does that by itself,” Searock explained. “And as a company, we’re focused on applying robotics and artificial intelligence to the construction industry.”
BirdBrain Technologies brought along a replica of the house from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and miniature robots that could easily fit in at a Toys R Us store, the goal was engaging kids. Erica Hogan, the company’s operations coordinator, said the company sells educational robotics kids for students in grades K-12 and uses an approach rooted in fun to get kids excited about STEM.
“Introducing students to programming and coding at an early age [gets] them prepared for the current tech climate,” Hogan said. “We have a couple of different robot setups, and the kids have loved coming and being able to interact with the robots and actually get their hands on stuff. You know, rather than just seeing it on a computer screen.”
Judging by the excited kids gathered around BirdBrain Technologies display, it could be safe to assume their products might find their way onto a few wishlists.
Whether their products focused on teaching, building or driving, these companies felt Discovery Day presented an opportunity for networking and outreach — and should there be a Discovery Day in 2023, you can expect to see them there, too.Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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