Why we need robotics in the classroom

Autonomous mower from Left Hand Robotics, image from their website

By now, most kids are in school. Well, at least attending school in some fashion. My kids, like many, are in an online program, cobbled together by our local school by administrators that likely ask questions like “The files are IN the computer?” Like most people, we’ll find a way to manage and try to get our kids ready for their adult lives, despite the flawed setup.

When we eventually go back to school, we need to ask harder questions about how well our schools are preparing kids for future careers. One area we’re missing is how we’ll work with autonomous vehicles in the future. We see much talk about autonomous cars, but there are plenty of other areas where autonomous vehicles are quietly proliferating. Too many people focus on jobs that would be taken away. Yes, jobs are going to leave, but new ones will appear. The new jobs require humans that are used to, and can work with, autonomous vehicles as they perform their tasks.

For example, there is a lot of investment in autonomous trucks. Long haul trucks move goods across the country, and the lack of sufficient capacity became obvious when Amazon and other delivery services struggled under the weight of COVID restrictions and increased demand for home delivery. Autonomous vehicles can operate longer and safer, but they aren’t ideal for all circumstances, such as icy roads. The human driver of the future needs to understand how the vehicle works, how to maintain it, and when to take over to keep the truck safe.

Construction vehicles are another area. Currently construction is viewed as a low education job. Its not (think about the engineering that goes into road construction), and in the future it’ll require even more education. Autonomous construction vehicles are now operating in remote sites, running 40 ton excavators and doing the dirty work while humans supervise the project. Before long, construction workers will need expertise in setting up sensors, monitoring equipment, directing an army of robots to build bridges, roads, solar arrays and the other things that make our world a pleasant place to live.

Robots that are out of sight are also getting attention. Underground digging by the BADGER robots in Europe could completely change how our cities are built and enable us to bring in new services (water, sewer, internet, etc.) without requiring expensive and obtrusive digging. Dredging harbors, necessary to ensure enough water depth for container vessels, could become completely autonomous thanks to a new underwater vehicle. These robots can do the dirty work and operate around obstacles using autonomous logic, but they can’t determine what to do. That’s still for humans to perform.

The more we get our kids used to directing and working with robots, the better they will be positioned to work in the future. Technologists are quick to announce the demise of any particular field, but the future is always a hybrid first as new technology adjusts to the reality of the world. Our future with robots is no different, and our kids will work in that future better if we make our schools prepare them for it.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Good News Found the part for my 1999 LeSabre! Bad News $423 with Tax!

Jon Sable Freelance by Mike Grell, Issue 8 page 12 1984

Well my quest to find a pulse board for a 1999 Buick LeSabre ended today.

I had done a lot of searching online to no avail and then put out feelers on twitter and here on the blog, even asked other bloggers to put out the word for me as neither my mechanic nor NAPA nor anyone else seemed to be able to find a Pulse board for a 1999 Buick LeSabre.

One reader apparently had found the part on Doorman site. They make all sort of replacement parts but alas their Part # 906-121 which runs about $60 while listed as comparable with the 1999 LeSabre on some sites that resell Doorman parts is specifically listed as not fitting my LeSabre on their own site.

I also checked with Cardone which does the same, they had the motor (Everyone seems to have the motor) but when I check in their chat system alas said motor did not come with a pulse board.

I thought I might have a winner at the rockauto.com site but again their AC delco re manufactured motor didn’t say if it came with a pulse board and nobody was available at the AC Delco site to answer that question concerning this part.

Finally I did one more ebay search and lo and behold:

$399!

That’s literally 6 to 7 times the price of the motor offered everywhere else, however unlike everywhere else it EXPLICITLY stated it was compatible with my 1999 Buick LeSabre.

You can’t imagine how nice that result looked given the number of times I had filled out a similar form over the last week or two and gotten a different result.

As you might guess once I had the part number from said piece I started looking for it elsewhere to see if I could find it cheaper, no luck. I tried the part number at the AC Delco site, not listed.

So it came down to this. My car’s inspection sticker runs out on Halloween I could hold out in the hopes that I could save a couple of hundred or do and hope some other person didn’t need a pulse board before then or do I bite the bullet and buy this final part figuring that ending the search with a month to spare was worth it?

That’s when I remember the Jon Sable quote above and decided to buy the part now.

In the end $400 or $500 is a lot less than $4000 or $5000 for another car and when it comes down to it if I can keep the body intact that Glorious Buick motor will keep going for years to come. And the time I would have spend over the last month worrying and scrounging has to be worth something

If I hadn’t just dropped $200 on tires for the car I might have decided that the time had come to enter the 21st century but if the Buick goes that dough was out the window. And and perhaps if DaWife hadn’t just depleted her projects fund on a new Reed’s ferry shed and a new fence that’s going in next month it wouldn’t have been so bad to lose the LeSabre rather than drop $400 on an $80 part.

Even better I don’t have to do a new used car bleg. It’s one thing to shake the tip jar for the work I do, that’s a return for services rendered it’s another to have to ask to defray the cost of an unexpected bill.

And hey at least I got a blog post out of it.