June 20, we invited five speakers to RTP180: Robots to talk about the past, present and future of robotics in the Triangle. Fullsteam also joined in the theme and served their “I Am Not a Robot” brew, which we went nuts and bolts for!
Brian O’Sullivan of TerrorBytes opened the evening by introducing us to the nation’s largest and oldest robotics competition: FIRST Robotics. FIRST is a global nonprofit organization that runs student robotics competitions from kindergarten through 12th grade, and depends on local organizations like FIRST North Carolina to run the program. In addition to teaching STEM fundamentals, FIRST also teaches communication and presentation skills. Key takeaway: Getting kids involved in STEM early, before stigmas develop and while parents are open to them exploring different fields, is a recipe for long term success. Watch Brian’s talk.
Elaine Rohik and Cathy Smith of WakeMed Health & Hospitals described how robotics is used to transform the way physical therapy is delivered to hospital patients. The Ekso Robotic Exoskeleton is a battery-powered wearable robot that aids patients with standing and walking. Originally designed to help military personnel carry heavy loads, the Ekso now helps patients gain more control of their movement as they recover from traumatic injury. Standing upright can reduce pain in joints, increase mobility and blood flow by stretching muscles, and enables “eye-to-eye” conversations. Watch Elaine and Cathy’s talk.
Leslie Boney of Institute for Emerging Issues addressed how automation and AI correlate with the future of work in North Carolina. Automation is exciting, but with every good thing comes challenges. Research shows that 2.4 million jobs are likely to be impacted by over the next 20 years due to robots and automation—five times the amount of jobs lost during the Great Recession. Leslie provided more statistics of this impact based on North Carolina counties, and the estimated rate of recovery for each county. He believes that in order to cope with the challenge, we must adopt an adaptable and life-long learning mindset in order to gain a variety of skill sets. Watch Leslie’s talk.
Manikanta Panati of Fidelity Investments discussed virtual assistants (AKA: robots you don’t see) and their positive effects. Virtual assistants are a big part of our daily lives—you may know some of them as Siri and Alexa. Manikanta explained the process of how bots compute a user’s request and the algorithms in place that serve the user’s intent accurately. He also noted several aspects of the virtual bot that can improve a user’s experience, such as clear expectation of capabilities, a personal touch, and concise language between the user and bot. Watch Manikanta’s talk.
Leila Bridgeman of Duke Robotics talked about her role as a control engineer, and the important part control engineering plays in the success of robotic systems. From vehicles to healthcare, machines in all industries require testing to prevent catastrophic failure. A good robotics controller knows to test machines in a variety of circumstance. However, they also need to be careful not to be too aggressive with their testing. She encouraged everyone to keep safety in mind as we venture into a new and unexplored age of robotic systems. Watch Leila’s talk.
Ready for more #RTP180? Our next topic is Chemistry—be sure to reserve your tickets for the July 18 event!
Thanks to presenting sponsor RTI International for enabling us to provide a platform for our community to share their knowledge. We’re also glad to have UNC-TV as our producer—if you can’t make it to any RTP180 event, you can catch the live stream beginning at 6:00PM EST the day of the show at ncchannel.org, and be sure to follow along with us on Twitter using #RTP180.