Building a Robot and Walking into the Future

Building a Robot and Walking into the Future
July 07, 2015 at 02:07pm

During the last week of June, there were robots wheeling around the GE Ecomagination Innovation Center at Masdar City. While that might seem attention grabbing in itself, even more significantly, the robots were built by a group of 11-13-year-old girls from a school in Abu Dhabi.

The little wheeled cars programmed to follow a black line, were the culmination of a five-session, four-week workshop hosted by GE in partnership with members of the local ‘Maker’ community for students of the GEMS Cambridge International School.

The program included an introduction to ‘GE Garages,’ where the students learned about Advanced Manufacturing, including 3D printing and scanning, CNC milling and injection molding. In addition, the girls received instruction in 3D design software, electronics and the open-source Arduino programming language.

Given the way Advanced Manufacturing, one of three disruptive forces transforming the Future of Work, is changing the way we make things, this workshop gave these girls a glimpse into the future — and possibly their own futures as engineers, scientists and ‘makers.’

As part of the program, the students built a fully functioning robot using electronics and 3D-printed parts they made themselves. While the students learned a great deal from the process of building their robot, they will continue to gain a deeper understanding of the possibilities of Advanced Manufacturing and robotics through further experiments, tinkering and enhancements to the robot.

This was the first in a series of such GE-designed workshops to strengthen students’ problem-solving and creative-thinking skills, and providing an understanding of the science, engineering, and technology that may come to define the world of work in the near future.

The workshop sought to encourage the students to pursue studies and careers in the STEM fields, including the professional opportunities created by Advanced Manufacturing.

At a young age, they have gained early insights into Advanced Manufacturing, which has the potential to democratize manufacturing by allowing rapid iterative prototyping and localized production, meaning fewer barriers to enter a supply chain, and greater flexibility and speed to design and produce products so that economic efficiency no longer hinges on the mass production of identical goods.

It also means a world where a single 3D printer could produce all of the pieces needed for a gas turbine or an aircraft engine, instead of needing multiple factories, each to produce a single part.

In the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region, GE is embracing the potential of Advanced Manufacturing, as well as the two other key forces of the Future of Work — Industrial Internet and the Global Brain — and working with regional partners to realize the many benefits that this new way of working can bring to the region.

Last fall, GE wrote a pioneering white paper on the subject called “Mapping the Future of Work in MENAT,” updated the study in April this year, and is running GE Garages workshops in countries across the region, including Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

GE also supports work to promote studies in the STEM fields of science, technology engineering and mathematics, including through scholarships, on-the-job training of recent graduates, specialized courses offered at regional engineering universities, and advanced engineering skills training for working professionals.

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