Mansfield, OH – July 2018 – Elektro The Robot

Mansfield, Ohio is a mid sized city in north central Ohio. It is most famous for the historic Mansfield Reformatory, which was used for the filming of Shawshank Redemption.

Also in Mansfield is their local museum, housed in a 1800s Soldier’s and Sailors Home.

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Mansfield was once home to a division of Westinghouse that built home appliances. At one point in the 1950s over 8,000 people from Mansfield worked for Westinghouse.

Without a doubt the most interesting thing ever developed and built for Westinghouse in Mansfield is Elektro, the Robot.

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Elektro was designed by Joseph Barnett for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. He is credited with being the first true robot ever built.

With voice commands he could walk, talk and count on his fingers. Built out of gears, cams, motors, vacuum tubes and a photo electric cell, one of Elektro’s stranger talents was the ability to smoke a cigarette.

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When we arrived in Mansfield we were greeted by Scott Schaut the curator of the museum, and expert on Elektro. When I asked why he wasn’t in a museum in Pittsburgh, the home of Westinghouse, Scott replied ‘over his dead body’!

Scott has re-created Elektro with modern resin’s and other components. The original is on the left, with the recreation on the right. There was once a dog named Sparko but he was lost to time.

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Also within the museum are some exhibits on the Westinghouse products built in town.

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Including a roasting pan.

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The museum has other local interest items scattered throughout.

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While much of the museum has a military feel to it, they also have some local minerals on display, along with more eclectic items.

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As part of their military display they have a very large model airplane collection.

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While most are military, they have some of the early airplanes like the Wright Flyer.

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The models are very detailed in the presentation. Scott said it best when he said, we are the museum for Mansfield but 90% of the people that walk through the door are looking for Elektro – just like us.

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Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Robot Hall of Fame

The Carnegie Science Center has a section called Roboworld, with a number of exhibits on robotics.

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Much of the exhibit is hands on, so you can control the robots to do things – including displaying dollar signs in their eyes.

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The highlight of the exhibit is the Robot Hall of Fame. It includes fictional robots over the years.

The robot Maria appeared in a movie called Metropolis, produced in Germany in 1927. Maria stands apart in that she is a female robot.

Her art deco form is symbolic of the times she was created.

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Gort is from the 1951 movie classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. As an eight foot tall robot, Gort can vaporize anything he wants with his laser like vision.

The movie stands today as one of the all time sci fi classics, with Gort being the star.

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Robby The Robot was featured in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet. With his smug superiority towards human, Robby makes the movie (along with a young Leslie Nielsen as an astronaut chasing after the female lead Anne Francis).

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The Iron Giant is supposed to be 50′ tall – he is a genial behemoth as a result of damage to his head.  He is the star of an animated movie of the same name made in 1999 who befriends a 9 year old boy after landing on earth. Of course the U.S. government wants to destroy it.

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Danger, Will Robinson! Everyone I know knew this robot and his famed line, however I never knew his name was B-9. He, like Robby, has human emotions.

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C-3PO and R2D2. Probably the most famous robots in film history.

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Pittsburgh – July 2017 – Carnegie Science Center

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The Carnegie Science Center, like most science centers, is geared towards children, but with an excellent railway model of the highlights of Pittsburgh I wanted to check it out.

An added bonus was the Robot Hall of Fame, as well as a submarine docked on the banks of the Ohio River!

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An interesting display showing the stress high heel shoes put on a woman’s ankle and foot.

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Forbes Field

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

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Danger Will Robinson….

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Marion, Ohio – April 2017 – National Robotics Challenge

With the good times we had at the robotics competition in Cleveland, we decided to go to Marion, Ohio for the National Robotics Challenge. This event bills themselves as different from the other robotics events due to the fact that there is no kit, rather they encourage the contestants to find materials and equipment best suited for the problem at hand. This results in a lower cost.

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In addition this event is open to anyone from 6th grade through graduate school, although we only saw middle school and high school contestants.

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It was obvious from the start the concept of freelance approach, as they appeared like erector sets with servos, motors and wheels. This is not a slam on the approach, in fact it is a testament to ingenuity.

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It did seem to lead to very uneven competition though. We watched the finals for ‘Sumo Robotics’, Robot Hockey and very small robots in battle in a glass case. It was clear that one would be far superior to the rest.

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The only downside to the event was the venue, and more specifically the placement of the rings for competition. They were up against the one side of stands, with a railing that made it difficult to see, and with judges and some contestants standing it was virtually impossible to get a decent view of the action. The judges should recognize this and take into consideration the paying spectators.

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Cleveland – April 2017 – Robotics Competition

The first day of April, 2017 offered up a Robotics Competition at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. The competition featured high school age groups from throughout Ohio as well as a few surrounding states.

The Wolstein Center is a 13,000 seat basketball arena, and for the competition the floor was divided in half, one side was the competition area and the other was the pits. The emcee hosting kept the crowd engaged throughout.

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The crowd of roughly 2000 people were extremely enthusiastic, cheering on their teams as the robots competed.

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The competition was intense.

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The teams throughout the pits were very happy to talk about their robots, and how they function.

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