Category Archives: Engineering

Will Robots Cause Job Loss?

Robots – I came across this video today. It was published to YouTube back in November of 2017. While I think it brings up a number of good points, I am still concerned that the increasing introduction of robots and automation will have a detrimental effect on jobs. While I do agree that automation will create new jobs, I fear that the bulk of the new jobs created will be lower paying than those that are eliminated.

I guess only time will tell. All we can do, as far as I can see, is to prepare through continuing education. It is also important for students to choose their professions after some consideration of the future work environment. I do hope that High School councilors are equipped to guide these students into what will turn out to be long-term professions.


How does Science Fiction Impact Innovation?

I came across the article “Does Science Fiction Really Drive Innovation?” this morning and found it very interesting. I would have said with more force that the answer was clearly “YES” before I read the article. Now, I am more likely to agree with the author – Science Fiction and Innovation really go hand in hand.

I still contend though that science fiction, in general, is likely to instill in kids and young adults reading or watching it an interest in science that ultimately contributes to innovation. It would be interesting to see how many students who pursue careers in science have read or watched science fiction as opposed to say those who pursued law or history. If that study doesn’t exist someone in academia should take it on.

Happy “Pi” Day 2018


It is Pi Day today and I wanted to remind all my readers about it. I can’t really say much more than I wrote last year, so I’m just going to repeat it here.

It is time to celebrate once again that incredible number Pi or 3.14159… I had a post that included some of the history in 2016. Take a few moments today and participate in the 30th annual celebration of Pi!

This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to STEM thru Pi. They learn a little history, learn some math and it can be capped with a nice slice of yummy pie. My first choice would be cherry.

As I suggested previously, try these methods of celebration.

One of the easiest and most fun is to simply eat pie!

Wear or display the Pi symbol

Plan your recognition event for 1:59 PM (i.e. 3.14159)

And, of course, mark your calendars for next year so you can plan something in advance.

NASA is offering a way to celebrate Pi Day this year with their “Pi in the Sky” challenge.

Disney Autonomous Animatronics

Robots – I have always liked the animatronics that Disney has placed in their parks. Now they are headed in a new direction with some new self-contained, autonomous animatronic characters – the Vyloo. I read about these today in the article “Disney has begun populating its parks with autonomous, personality-driven robots“.

These creatures have embedded cameras and sensors as well as the control electronics to make them come to life. These little robotic figures are programmed with actions and motions, but what makes them unique is the way they can sense their audience and interact with them.

I look forward to seeing these little guys and even more advanced versions in the years ahead. I can easily see where autonomous robots like these are going to be key to establishing the immersive experience that Disney wants to offer their visitors.

Women and Computers in WWII – Intermission Story (22)

WWII – I read this a while back and have been meaning to reblog it. I thought it gave an interesting look back in history. It is a good, though quick, look at how women used computing to aid in World War II.

Pacific Paratrooper

Women with the ENIAC computer

Before the invention of electronic computers, “computer” was a job description, not a machine. Both men and women were employed as computers, but women were more prominent in the field. This was a matter of practicality more than equality. Women were hired because there was a large pool of women with training in mathematics, but they could be hired for much less money than men with comparable training. Despite this bias, some women overcame their inferior status and contributed to the invention of the first electronic computers.

In 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, hundreds of women were employed around the country as computers. Their job consisted of using mechanical desk calculators to solve long lists of equations. The results of these calculations were compiled into tables and published for use on the battlefields by gunnery officers. The tables allowed soldiers…

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SpaceX Successfully Tests the Falcon Heavy

SpaceSpaceX tested its new, heavy launch vehicle the Falcon Heavy today. Not only was the launch successful placing a test payload into orbit, but it was able to successfully recover both of the flanking boosters at the Florida facility. At the time I publish this there is no word yet as to whether the main stage recovery on a barge in the Pacific was successful.

This will give the US a heavy lift capacity that it has not had in some time. With the ability to lift over 140,000 lbs, this rocket will be able to lift nearly three times the Delta IV-Heavy, TitanIV-B or Atlas V. This may be a significant step forward for missions to the Moon or more importantly to Mars.

The Cost of Industrial Robots Predicted to Decline


Robots – In a recently published article “Industrial Robot Cost Decline” by ARK Invest, they predict that the cost of industrial robots will drop 65% by 2025. They say:

. . . costs will drop by roughly 65%, to levels much lower than most analysts now anticipate, by 2025. Combined with advances in machine learning and computer vision, this drop in costs should cause an inflection point in the demand for robots as they infiltrate new industries with more provocative use cases.

These are just machines with a significant helping of electronics. It is no surprise that the price will fall as the technology matures, just as it has in so many segments of the electronics industry. This just adds to the rush towards more robotics and automation.

The big question looking forward is how will all of this automation affect society. It is a move that can’t and shouldn’t be stopped, but some long range planning is needed to keep the wide introduction of robots and AI from being disruptive.

Robots at Walmart

Apparently even Walmart is looking at automation in its stores. Two different initiatives seem to be under evaluation by Walmart.

EMMA (Enabling Mobile Machine Automation), an autonomous machine for scrubbing store floors, is under evaluation at five stores. After a training run controlled by a human operator to identify the desired operational path, the machine will autonomously clean the floor. It has built in sensors and cameras similar to autonomous vehicles currently on the roads that allow it to navigate around obstacles at a sedate 2.5 miles per hour. EMMA is a product of Brain Corp.

In a separate trial, Walmart has deployed shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores. These machines will scan store shelves to verify inventory, prices and misplaced items. These units are from Bossa Nova Robotics.

Will these attempts at automation cost jobs? Well, probably over the long term, but it is unlikely that the impact will be significant. It is clear though that robots and automation will be in our future.