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Category Archives: Robotics
Posted: July 20, 2017 at 3:15 am
Dozens of Fort Worth's brightest high school students battled it out in a tough competition.
The group gathered at Texas Wesleyan University for a robotics competition. But it's much more than just a contest.
The robotics class came down to a final showdown of mechanics and the mind. The robots were evenly matched. The brains and competitive spirit come from the students who built them.
"I let her be the competitive side, said student Louis Anguiano. I just get to have fun. I built the robot.
Teammate Yendy Avila is competitive. But when she thinks about winning, it's about securing a future.
"At first, I wanted to be a robotics engineer. But after that, I found out I wanted to be an animator, she said. This helps me a lot by knowing more about the movement and how it works."
The competition is a clash of titans students with a driving force. They're from four Fort Worth high schools taking a summer robotics class at Texas Wesleyan University.
The class is part of Upward Bound, a college prep program. Many of the students in it will be the first in their family to go to college.
The object of the competition is for the teams' robots to pick up letters and spell TX WES by tacking them up on a board. But there are several ways to score points.
The big prize is a stuffed toy. It's good for a lot of extra points if your robot is first to snatch it up and drop it in a tin box.
The enthusiasm from the students tells you it is a lot of fun. It is a lot like a crossroads with no stop sign. But it's the path these students will have to learn to negotiate to succeed.
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Posted: at 3:15 am
GREENFIELD The new, 2-foot tall robot at Greenfield Community College doesnt yet have a name, or even a gender, but students are already falling in love with the little creature who, in autonomous mode, says Hi, blinks its eyes, and connects to the internet.
For now, the new arrival is still being powered up; but when he, she or it is ready for school, students will learn how to program the robot to do special movements and tasks.
This school year, Mohawk and GCC will team up to offer a pilot robotics course at Mohawk during the spring semester.
The course will be available for students in Grades 9 through 12 and will be co-taught by GCC engineering, math professor Amy Ehmann and by Mohawk science teacher Downey Meyer.
It will fulfill a science course requirement for graduation here at Mohawk, said Mohawk Principal Lynn Dole. It is not required of all students, but for those who choose to take it, it will count as a full science course for the graduation requirements. The course will be taught here at Mohawk.
According to Cathryn Seaver of GCCs Chief Academic & Student Affairs Office, the instructors will be developing the course together during the fall semester. She said the class offers two college credits.
Its a class thats commonly used to give students hands-on experience in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
For its first photo-op, the robot was brought into Ehmanns Internet Engineering classroom, where it was an immediate hit. The robot blinked its eyes and looked around the room. The robot steadied itself on the edge of a table and swayed slightly as it looked around. It seemed to respond to sound.
When its fully programmed, its fingers will open and close, said Mary Ellen Fydenkevez, dean of Engineering, Math, Nursing and Science. The first time we plugged him in, he stood up and said hi.
At one point the robot looked around the room, as if taking in all the attention, then bowed his head. Is that your shy-face? asked Ehmann. To everyones surprise, the robot nodded.
When powered down, the robot gives a little yawn, then kneels down, like a little yogi.
GCC is thinking of holding a naming contest for this new teaching aid.
GCC President Robert L. Pura said GCC has joined with several high schools to collaborate on programs tailored to each. Besides Mohawk, GCC has partnered with Greenfield, Turners Falls, the Franklin County Technical School, Frontier and Northampton on courses to meet their needs.
Posted: July 19, 2017 at 4:14 am
Wai Yan Htun, 18, a member of Myanmars team who stopped to get the Afghans signatures on his shirt, said: We love them. Theyre like superheroes in this competition.
Colleen Elizabeth Johnson, 18, one of three teenagers representing the United States, said: Theyre celebrities here now. Theyre getting the welcome they deserve.
Before their first match Tuesday morning, the six Afghan teenagers were paired with the United States and four other all-female teams for a demonstration match for Ivanka Trump, the presidents daughter and adviser. Ms. Trump then spoke briefly to the crowd, applauding the students work and dedication.
For many of you who have traveled great lengths to be here, we welcome you, she said, turning to smile at the six Afghan girls. Its a privilege and an honor to have you all with us.
In the competition, teams of three, equipped with kits that included wheels, gears and two video game controllers, chased down blue and orange balls, which represented clean and contaminated water. In two-and-a-half-minute rounds, teams guided the robots to sweep the balls into openings based on their color.
Its way more fun, way more exciting than bouncing a ball, said Dean Kamen, one of the organizations founders and inventor of the Segway. Thats not a competition out there. Thats a celebration.
It was certainly a celebration for Roya Mahboob, a renowned Afghan technology entrepreneur who interpreted for the teenagers and came on behalf of her company, Digital Citizen Fund, a womens empowerment nonprofit that sponsored the Afghan team.
The six students were chosen from an initial pool of 150 applicants. They built their robot in two weeks, compared with the four months some of their competitors had, because their kits shipment was delayed.
Im just proud that we show the talent of the women, Ms. Mahboob said. We see that there is change.
The Afghan robot, named Better Idea of Afghan Girls, lurched across the terrain for the first round and skirted out of bounds, but 15-year-old Lida Azizi, a teal-colored braid dangling from under her white head scarf, flashed her teammates a thumbs-up as they cheered in Dari and applauded. As the competition progressed, they continued to make adjustments as they got used to driving their robot, an Afghan flag carefully attached.
While the team did not place in the top ranks overall, their final performance, they agreed, was better than they had hoped for. Team Europe took the gold, while the Polish and Armenian teams took silver and bronze, respectively.
I am so happy and so tired, Alireza Mehraban, an Afghan software engineer who is the teams mentor, said after the competition concluded.
Mr. Mehraban said the contest had been an opportunity to change perceptions about the girls country. Were not terrorists, he said. Were simple people with ideas. We need a chance to make our world better. This is our chance.
Yet with more than 150 countries represented in the competition, the Afghan teenagers were not the only students who overcame bureaucratic and logistical challenges to showcase their ingenuity. Visa applications were initially denied for at least 60 of the participating teams, Mr. Kamen said.
On Monday, with the news media swarming the Afghan girls, a team from Africa five Moroccan students who also got their visas two days before the competition huddled in a downstairs corner to repair their robot, which had been disassembled for last-minute shipment. An American high school built a robot on behalf of the Iranian team when sanctions on technology exports stopped the shipment of their materials kit. And on Sunday, the Estonian team built a new robot in four hours before the opening ceremony, the original lost in transit somewhere between Paris and Amsterdam.
But it was the Afghan team and Team Hope, which consists of three Syrian refugee students, that ensnared the attention of the competitors, the judges and supporters.
The high school students exchanged buttons and signed shirts, hats and flags draped around their shoulders. The Australian team passed out pineapple-shaped candy and patriotic stuffed koalas to clip on lanyards, while the Chilean team offered bags with regional candy inside.
God made this planet for something like this, all the people coming together as friends, said Alineza Khalili Katoulaei, 18, the captain of the Iranian team, gesturing to the Iraqi and Israeli teams standing nearby. Politics cannot stop science competitions like this.
During Tuesdays awards ceremony, judges awarded the Afghans a silver medal as part of an award for courageous achievement, giving gold to the team from South Sudan.
The crowd roared and waved flags as the teenagers accepted their medals and waved.
It was the first medal Fatemah Qaderyan, 14, of the Afghan team had ever earned, and through a translator, she explained that she planned to hang it in her room and show it to all of her friends.
I am so excited, and very, very happy, she said, turning the medal over in her hands. I still cant believe this happened.
Even after the team changed into traditional dresses and scarves for a reception at the Afghan Embassy, they kept their medals on. On Wednesday, they will tour Capitol Hill before returning Thursday to Afghanistan.
We dont have the words to say how happy we are, said Rodaba Noori, 16. So proud of ourselves.
Get politics and Washington news updates via Facebook, Twitter and in the Morning Briefing newsletter.
A version of this article appears in print on July 19, 2017, on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Afghan Girls, Once Denied Visas, Win Limelight at Robotics Contest.
Here is the original post:
Posted: at 4:14 am
By Moriah Balingit and Sharif Hassan | Washington Post
WASHINGTON As six robots battled it out on the floor of the DAR Constitution Halls auditorium during the FIRST Global Challenge competition Tuesday afternoon, a cheer rose above the din of voices echoing across the stands.
Team Hope! Team Hope! Team Hope!
The cheering came from a corner of the stadium where a group of boys from Team Lebanon wearing rainbow clown wigs stood next to Team Palestine. They, and teams from Libya and Jordan, were lending their voices to support a group of Syrian refugees, known as Team Hope. It was one of many times when teens would spontaneously break out into cheers for competitors.
When they werent cheering, hundreds of teens from 157 countries mingled, chatted and leaned in for selfies in the sweltering corridors of the concert hall at the first international Global Challenge competition. In between making final adjustments on their robots, a bonding experience that has become central to this competition, they signed each others T-shirts and exchanged pins. If they did not speak the same language, they all understood the thrill, the frustration and the anxiety that comes with competition.
These are precisely the kinds of friendships FIRST Global founder Dean Kamen, an inventor, hoped to build ones that crossed languages, cultures and geopolitical frontiers. His lofty vision is one in which graduates of this program put aside politics to solve the worlds most pressing challenges, like shortages of clean water and the myriad problems wrought by global climate change. In this years competition, teams built robots to sort contaminated water from clean water actually orange and blue plastic balls to get them thinking about the real-life challenge that many face getting enough clean water.
If we can get kids from around the world to deal with the same issues . . . we could compete on the same team, Kamen said on Sunday evening, in remarks at the opening ceremony. You dont have to have self-inflicted wounds created by arbitrary differences and politics.
This cauldron of competition with countries sending some of their brightest and best aspiring engineers forged plenty of unusual friendships. Team Armenia and Team Turkey, who come from countries whose relations are strained were allied in one match. The Armenian team also helped Lesotho make modifications to their robot.
You have to put politics aside, said Lilit Tarumyan, a 16-year-old team member. Her teammate. Maria Ter-Minasyan, chimed in: They were some cool guys!
The contest is called a coopera-tition, with points given to teams for working together to form alliances.
Under their countrys flag, three young Iranian men tinkered with their robot on Tuesday afternoon, in preparation for the final, nerve-racking matches of the FIRST Global Robotics competition. Just feet away, Team Israel was busily making adjustments to theirs. The two countries have hostile relations. But in this corner of the DAR Constitution Hall, separated by no more than 30 feet, the teens from both countries forged an unlikely bond.
They chatted about robots and politics, and then the two teams huddled together for a group photo with founder Kamen. And then the teens wished each other good luck.
Please, see us today, we Israelis and Iranians were together and happy,said Mohammad Reza Karami, the mentor for Team Iran. You also can see, learn and be together.
The competition capped weeks of drama in which two teams one from Gambia and Afghanistans all-girls squad appeared to be in jeopardy of competing in the U.S. when their visas were initially denied. Their plight garnered international attention and sympathy. The Gambian team finally received their visas in early July, according to the Associated Press. But the Afghan girls did not get their visas until President Donald Trump intervened at the last-minute, granting them passage to the U.S.
Alieu Bah, an 18-year-old Gambian team member from Serakunda, said the team was crestfallen when their visa applications were initially denied. But they did not give up and continued to put in hours of work sometimes seven hours at a stretch on their competition robot, with plans to ship it to Gambians living in the U.S., who would compete in their place.
We worked hard. And even when we didnt get it, we worked hard, said Bah, who added that he was just excited to see Gambia represented in the international competition. But he was still thrilled when he heard the State Department had reversed its decisions. Im proud to be here.
Tuesday, First Daughter Ivanka Trump came to the hall and met with five other all-girl squads, including the teams from Jordan, Brunei, Vanuatu and the U.S. She then pulled the lever to start a friendly match between the six teams.
Kawsar Roshan, a 15-year-old member of Team Afghanistan, said Trump was welcoming, telling her through a translator: Youre most welcome. Im happy you made it to the U.S.
See the original post:
Posted: at 4:14 am
Student inventors from across the globe defied the STEM gender gap this week, convening in the District to compete in the worlds first international robot contest for high schoolers.
First daughter Ivanka Trump arrived at the competition Tuesday morning to congratulate the six all-female teams on their work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
For many of you who have traveled great lengths to be here, we welcome you. Its a privilege and an honor to have you all with us, Ms. Trump said.
FIRST Global, a leadership program sponsoring kids interested in STEM, aided nearly 160 countries in sending student teams and the robots they designed to the two-day competition at DAR Constitution Hall in the District.
FIRST Global founder Dean Kamen highlighted the mission of the event: aiding less-prosperous nations to finally enter into the world of robotics.
By empowering the bright young minds of tomorrow through STEM, countries all over the world particularly in developing countries could experience accelerated economic growth and obtain secure and peaceful livelihoods for their nations, Mr. Kamen said during Sunday nights opening ceremony.
Jose Escotto, communications director for FIRST Global, told The Washington Times that the organization prioritizes giving women the tools to take their place confidently in the technology field.
We have over 800 students in this competition 200 of them are women. Thats something we definitely pride ourselves in. We know women have been terribly underrepresented when it comes to careers in STEM, said Mr. Escotto. So today we have a number of all-female teams from the U.S., Ghana, Vanuatu, Jordan and Afghanistan. Sixty percent of the teams we have here today were either led, formed or organized by women.
Tightly packed and brightly colored stations for each country lined the walls of Constitution Hall, where teams chatted excitedly as they worked on their robots.
Despite language barriers, a spirit of camaraderie and a passion for robotics joined the students together. In fact, many competitors went from table to table with plastic balls or T-shirts for opposing teams to sign as mementos.
Since the challenge was released, theres been social media flying between all these teams. Theyve all been chatting, Skypeing and talking for months, said Team USA coach Sharon Johnson. So they show up to the competition and they already know some of these teams. Theyve been collaborating on programming and building ideas. The hope is that theyll continue to stay networked and continue collaborating beyond the competition.
The robot competition is to be an annual event in a different country each year with a different theme like the Olympics athletic games, according to FIRST Global. This years theme, Clean Water, was evidenced by the advanced challenges in which the teams robots competed.
There are particles little orange and blue balls on the field. The blue particles represent clean water, the orange balls represent contaminants, said Ms. Johnson. So the robots have to drive around, pick up those balls, sort them by color, and then put them in the appropriate pots based on whether its a contaminant or a particle. Then, at the end, theres an onrush of a flood, and they have to go do a pullup onto the bar with the idea that the robot is saving itself from the flood. Its pretty awesome.
The teams were obviously happy with their carefully designed bots, but many said they were just as thrilled to be in the capital of the United States for the first time.
However, the high schoolers maintained motivation for a higher purpose to bring positive change to their communities.
Nabih Alkhateeb, a 17-year old Syrian student on the competitions HOPE refugee team, says these opportunities are only stepping stones to helping his people.
Right now in the Syrian war, science is going backwards. A lot of people are out of schools. Im not in Syria because Im living in Lebanon now. Im able to study, but more than 300,000 children are out of school even there, said Nabih.
In the future, he wants to use robotics in civil engineering to aid his war-torn nation.
I love buildings and I love how they look. So after I finish my studies, Im going to go back to Syria and help rebuild what has been lost, Nabih said.
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Posted: at 4:14 am
Right now, roboticist Daniela Rus main aspiration is to have a world where anyone can have a robot, where anyone can use a robot, the MIT professor told TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics on Monday.
Rus, who is also the director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, said that though the world of robotics has certainly made recent advancements, her dream isnt possible quite yet.
But just remember that only two decades ago, computation was a task reserved for an expert few, because computers were large, expensive and hard to use, she said. All that changed now everyone uses computers and I believe in the future, tasks will be equally changed by artificial intelligence.
What followed throughout the one-day robotics event organized by tech media company TechCrunch was the musings of many immersed in the robotics world as to where we are exactly in the timeline of robot advancement, and how that advancement will affect humans.
Basically, were just at the beginning of developing robots, and were still pretty far from many developments and from the sci-fi situation of robots taking over the world.
In a talk about robots, AI and humanity, experts discussed the difficult goal of creating a robot consciousness, which would allow artificial intelligence to make ethical decisions and follow social cues.
If you look at theology, humans are born without common sense, said Dr. David Barrett, a professor of mechanical engineering at Olin College. Its an acquired skill a little bit is better than none, a little bit more is better than that, until you get to a level of confidence to perform a job and interact with people. Computers and AI are far from that baseline point.
Even though the tech behind robots still has a long way to go, people are already thinking about how robots and humans will coexist. If you fear robots taking over the world, or just all your job options, dont worry.
I think there is sometimes a misconception that automation is all about a direct line march from all people to all robots, said Clara Vu, VP of engineering at Veo Robotics. Really, in many ways, humans and robots have very complementary strengths: Robots can be fast and strong, but humans have flexibility and judgment.
When people are looking for robotic solutions to problems, Vu said, theyre looking for ways robot and humans can work together.
There are already more than 80,000 robots working in Amazons warehouses and fulfillment centers, said Tye Brady, chief technologist for Amazon Robots, at TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics on Monday.
Though the robotics world is still developing, Brady doesnt expect or want robots to replace humans completely at Amazon.
Humans are really great at creative problem-solving, abstraction and generalizations. Robots are really good at crunching numbers, pulling data, lifting heavy objects and moving with precision, he said. We have to think about how we can build systems that bring the strengths of each of these components together.
To Brady, that collaboration will look like a symphony of humans and robots fulfilling orders in a way the world hasnt seen.
That collaboration will extend into other businesses as well, like helping first responders or law enforcement officials react to a crisis.
Heather Ames of Neurala, a Boston-based deep learning software company, unveiled at the TechCrunch event a partnership between Neurala and Motorola Solutions in which artificial intelligence can help find a missing child.
The description of a missing child can be sent to body cameras on the uniforms of officers, she said, so that thousands of eyes are scanning the crowd looking for a lost child. The same system could also be applied to finding suspicious packages.
Drones can help first responders assess a catastrophic event, said Buddy Michini of Airware.
They can take a drone for getting an overview of whats happening and put [help] at, say, the most crashed building, he said, adding that Airware sent drones to assist with a recent earthquake in Italy.
And robots can even be integrated right onto the human body, to augment human skills. David Perry from Harvard Labs demoed an exosuit at the event that straps robotics right onto someones legs.
This has two main applications, he said: to enhance the natural ability of healthy people and to restore ability that those with a physical impairment may have lost. For the first use, Harvard Labs has been working with the military to put these robotic pants onto soldiers, so they dont get as tired while walking and carrying packs that often weigh more than 100 pounds.
The machine doesnt control the user, Perry explained, but follows his moves, whether walking up a hill or stepping over rough terrain, combining the strengths of both robots and humans together in one use.
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Posted: at 4:14 am
On Tuesday's episode of "Robotics Revolution," CBS News explores how robots can transform the way we live and work.
An estimated 38 percent of American jobs are at "high risk" of automation by the early 2030s. Some cities, like Las Vegas, will be hit hard. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of all Las Vegas jobs may be automated by 2035. But what if machines could be a natural extension of us?
MIT hosted the brightest minds in tech on Monday, showing off the latest in artificial intelligence and robotics. One of the most notable and multi-dimensional advances is a way for humans and robots to safely join forces. CBS News' Dana Jacobson met one robot who works side-by-side with people. Another uses brain control to take cues from humans in order to complete tasks. Both robots are changing the workplace as we know it.
"Well, this is our great innovation, YuMi, which means you and me," Sami Atiya said. "And it allows robots to work hand in hand with human beings."
YuMi is what's called a "cobot," which is a new breed of collaborative robot that could revolutionize the assembly line. YuMi makes paper airplanes, solves the Rubik's cube and even helps a person with multiple sclerosis play chess.
Baxter is a brain-controlled robot that could help humans think more and do less.
"One idea that we kind of thought about was, well, can the Baxter robot help a human assemble Ikea furniture or something like this?" Stephanie Gil said.
YuMi allows robots to work hand in hand with human beings.
At MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Gil and Andres Salazar are developing robots like Baxter, who can learn from his mistakes by reading your brainwaves and transmitting your thoughts.
The researchers assure us they're not teaching robots to read our minds. But the lab's director, Daniela Rus, imagines the possibility of someday seeing man and machine work hand in hand.
"A machine would be able to ready more radiology scans in a day than a physician will see in a lifetime," Rus said. "But the machine will not have the same kind of creativity. So, I like to think of machines and people as working together. Machines doing what they're best at and people doing what they're best at."
Not everyone thinks it's a match made in heaven. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently warned that artifical intelligence poses an "existential threat" to humanity.
"Robots will be able to do everything better than us," Musk said. "I mean all of us, you know."
"You can't stop technology from evolving and from changing the world," Rus added. "But we can anticipate the changes and we can put the rules in place to make sure that the changes are for the better."
"It will take a lot of time for a robot to become human-like," Atiya said. "So, a robot to do this interview with you and go and then take a cab back home, you know, that will take decades."
Atiya is the president of robotics and motion at ABB, the company that developed YuMi, the collaborative industrial robot.
"I think what is important is that artificial intelligence is used as a tool," Atiya said. "And it's not a means by itself."
All the experts Jacobson spoke with this week say technological advancement isn't new. We've seen it over time from the agricultural revolution to the invention of the spreadsheet. They say as artificial intelligence gains steam and blue collar manufacturing jobs disappear, we will have to retrain workers to compensate, but the revolution will happen. You can find jobs, it's just the training needs to be there.
2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Posted: July 18, 2017 at 4:14 am
Team Gambia at the First Global Challenge 2017, an international robotics event. Left to right: Sellou Jallow, Fatoumata Ceesay, Khadijatou Gassama, Ebrima Marong and Alieu Bah. Shelby Knowles/NPR hide caption
It was a story that made headlines around the world.
An all-girl team from Afghanistan applied for visas to come to the First Global Challenge, an international robotics competition taking place in Washington, D.C. this week.
And their visa request was denied.
They weren't the only team to face visa hurdles. The team from Gambia two girls and three boys was also denied when they first applied.
"Having no hope to come, we still worked," says the team's captain, 18-year-old Alieu Bah. "We never give up, no matter how hard the condition is. That's how we pushed and pushed and pushed until we finally reapplied and got our visa, and here we are now."
The opening ceremony at the First Global Challenge 2017. Shelby Knowles/NPR hide caption
The opening ceremony at the First Global Challenge 2017.
The Afghanistan team got its visas as well. Now both teams are in Washington, D.C., for the contest. Each of the roughly 160 national teams participates in several matches, hoping their robots earn the most points.
We spoke to the members of team Gambia to see what it's like to plunge into the world of robotics in their country where 48.4 percent of the population lives in poverty and what it's like to be a girl in the male-dominated world of science and technology.
None of the team members had any experience building robots before this competition, says Khadijatou Gassama.
"We didn't have anyone to help us with the design," she says, adding that the team watched videos and followed a guide provided by First Global to learn how to make their robot.
Khadijatou Gassama of team Gambia. Shelby Knowles/NPR hide caption
Khadijatou Gassama of team Gambia.
The theme of this first-time competition is "water issues." The Gambian team's robot, a cube-shaped device about the size of a large microwave, is designed to separate balls that represent water particles and balls that represent water contaminants and deliver them to different places.
Gassama and Fatoumata Ceesay are the two girls on Gambia's team. It's their first time in the U.S. They're both relatively soft-spoken but seemed confident as they interacted with their teammates. The girls spent some of their free time between matches working with their teammates to fine-tune their robot.
Gassama says she loves physics because it requires thinking outside of the box, coming up with new ideas and inventing new things. The 17-year-old's skill in physics led her professor to recommend her for the robotics team.
"It may not be complex, but I think it's efficient enough to take part in the competition," Gassama says of the team's robot. She graduated from high school this year and hopes to study nanotechnology. She's not planning to start college this fall it's too expensive, she says but instead wants to do an internship.
Both girls would like to inspire more young women in their home country to get into robotics.
"The [girls] that do not have it in mind can change their minds, because it's very interesting," says Ceesay, 17. She also graduated from high school this year.
Fatoumata Ceesay of team Gambia displays her country's flag at the First Global Challenge. Shelby Knowles/NPR hide caption
Fatoumata Ceesay of team Gambia displays her country's flag at the First Global Challenge.
Gambia, along with many other countries, still has a STEM gender gap.
As of 2011, about 20 percent of the country's researchers are female, according to a UNESCO report. That's better than Saudi Arabia and Nepal and comparable to the Netherlands (24 percent) and France (26 percent).
Hamba Manneh, charge d'affaires at the Gambian embassy in Washington, D.C., says the Gambian government makes an effort to include girls in all its government-sponsored events.
"If you neglect half of your population, you are likely to fail in any undertaking," he says. "Girls are very smart, they're just as smart as their boy counter[parts], so that's why they should always be center stage."
That's a sentiment shared by the young women at the competition. Laura Ortiz, a 10th grader on the Chilean team, says, "Many say that engineering and robotics are for men, and places like salons are for women. But I feel we all have equal rights to do what we like."
Gassama hopes she and Ceesay will inspire other Gambian girls to become interested in technology and look for solutions to some of Gambia's problems such as getting access to clean water for everyone.
"Especially during the rainy season, it's very terrible," she says. "Most of the places have boreholes and during the rainy season those have rubbish. People find it very, very difficult to get clean water."
"That is why more girls should get involved in this kind of stuff, because it's really, really important," she adds. "We want to build our nation, to make it a better place to live."
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After years of research and development, Reach Robotics has closed a $7.5 million Series A, co-led byKoreaInvestment Partners (KiP) and IGlobe, to bring its augmented reality bots to market in a big way. The Bristol-based startup is looking to expand into the U.S., and the team is exploring opportunities for growth into other European and Asian markets.
Reach Robotics first product, MekaMon, launched last fall. Todays round comes after the company produced and sold an initial run of 500 of its four-legged, crab-like, bots. MekaMon fits into an emerging category of smartphone-enabled augmented reality toys like Anki.
Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics, tells me the influx of capital will be used to make some strategic hires and increase brand recognition through marketing. This is the first time the startup has announced a funding round. Adekunle tells me his experience raising capital wasnt easy; as they say, hardware is hard.
It was hard to pitch in our early days because people didnt believe, explained Adekunle.
MekaMon sits somewhere between toy and full-fledged robot. Unlike the radio-controlled RadioShack robots of yesteryear, MekaMon costs a hefty $329. At first glance this can be hard to swallow, but Adekunle remains adamant that he is building a platform and not a line of toys think PS4 instead of an expensive, single-use robot collecting dust on a shelf.
Outside of retail sales, another avenue for the company to make money is through partnerships within the entertainment industry. Adekunle says that Reach would never go out of its way to deliver a specific product for a client, but he always keeps an eye out for overlap where a partnership could occur with minimal operational changes.
People are taken aback that something could be this realistic, asserts Adekunle. If you strip back the product and lose that, then you dont have an innovative company.
Because Reach is selling software-enabled hardware, it has the opportunity to collect all sorts of interesting data that it can use to fine-tune its products. The startup is able to track retention in aggregate and look at how people actually use their robots. Moreover, if MekaMon suffers leg failure, Reach can analyze indicators like temperature readings and torque.
Adekunle insists on keeping the Reach Robotics team interdisciplinary one employee helped shape the way robots move in the Transformers movie series. This same team is focused on empowering the next group of developers who will build on the MekaMon platform and create new use cases, beyond the companys initial vision for the product.
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Many industry experts believe that the robotic surgery marketis on the cusp of a dramatic expansion. For example, a recent report from marketsandmarkets.com predicts that the market will grow from $4.9 billion in 2016 to nearly $13 billion by 2021. Naturally, a market of that size has attracted the attention of several companies that want to get in on the action.
However, only a few companies have succeeded in bringing a robotic surgery system to market thus far. Mazor Robotics (NASDAQ:MZOR)is one of those few businesses. The company currently boasts two surgical systems for sale -- the Renaissance and Mazor X -- both of which help surgeons perform spine and brain procedures. With a worldwide install base of more than 150 systems, Mazor has established itself as the lead husky in its field. But with lots of competition on the way, should investors be fearful?
Image source: Mazor Robotics.
Your first instinct might be to assume that Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) is the company's main opponent, since it is the pioneer in the use of robots during surgery. However, Intuitive's da Vinci is primarilydesigned for use ingynecological, urological, and general surgeryprocedures, not procedures involving bones. Since Mazor's products are exclusively focused on fixing problems with the spine and brain, there actually isn't any direct competition between the two -- at least not yet.
Instead of Intuitive, Mazor's investors need to keep their eyes trained on companies likeZimmer Biomet Holdings (NYSE:ZBH)andGlobus Medical (NYSE:GMED), both of which are focused on developing robotic products that could be used forspine and brain surgeries. That's a much more direct competitive threat.
Image source: Zimmer Biomet.
Zimmer Biomet, in particular, made a big move into the space last year through its acquisition of MedTech SA. Medtech was the original developer of the ROSA robot, which is a robotic arm that has received regulatory approval in both the U.S. and EU for spine and brain surgeries. Just like Mazor's products, ROSA is designed to help surgeons increase their accuracy and precision with screw and implant placement. So far, a few dozen ROSA systems have been sold and are actively being used.
Globus Medical is a little bit further behind Zimmer with its robotic surgical system rollout, but that could be changing soon. The company's Excelsius GPS system is similarly focused on spine and brain procedures and has already received regulatory clearance in Europe. However, the company suffered a setback earlier this year after the FDA rejected its 510(k) application. Globus is still committed to moving forward with the product in the U.S. as soon as possible and is in active discussions with the agency to make that happen before the end of the year.
Other potential competitors includeStryker Corporation,which entered the robotic surgery arena in 2013 with its buyout of Mako Surgical. While the Mako is primarily used forhip and knee procedures, the company has a lot of direct experience with diseases of the bone. That could go a long way toward helping it enter the spine and brain markets if it chooses.
It would also be a mistake to completely rule out Intuitive Surgical as a competitor. Intuitive certainly has the resources, technology, and footprint to make inroads in the spine and brain markets down the road if it wanted. You could also potentially add NuVasive orJohnson & Johnsonand Alphabet's Verb Surgical to the mix, too.
Add it all up, and it is likely that surgeons will have at least three different vendors to choose from by the end of the year -- and possibly even more over time. That means that the competition between these systems is about to get very serious.
Given all of the potential competition from these well-funded companies, it might be natural to assume that Mazor is toast. However, I can think of at least three reasons why investors should still stick with Mazor from here.
First, there's no doubt that Mazor is the first mover and top dog in its field. The company's products have been used by hundreds of surgeons, and more than 24,000 procedures have been performed since its launch. In addition, more than 40 peer-reviewed articles have been published touting the benefits of Mazor's systems. This battle-tested history should help to give it a leg up on winning over new doctors.
Next, the company's partnership with Medtronic (NYSE:MDT)is another major advantage. Medtronic isone of the largest medical device companies in the world, and it has developed deep relationships with the surgical community over the last few decades. Adding Medtronic's brand name and marketing muscle should greatly help with the commercialization of the Mazor X and Renaissance system.
Finally, the market for robotic surgery systems could grow so rapidly that it could support multiple winners. After all,Mazor estimates that its products have an addressable market opportunity of about 500,000 procedures eachyearin the U.S. alone. For context, last year the company system was only used in about 5,000 procedures in the U.S. That hints that there is a ton of growth runway left, even if the playing field gets a little bit more crowded.
I think that thecompany's leadership position and growth potential more than compensate investors for the risks they are taking by sticking with the company. Still, there's no doubt that the competition for robotic surgical systems is about to get fierce.
Brian Feroldi owns shares of Intuitive Surgical and Mazor Robotics. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Intuitive Surgical. The Motley Fool owns shares of Medtronic. The Motley Fool recommends Globus Medical and NuVasive. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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