Day 9: KUKA

Today was the day. This was the site visit that I’ve been waiting for. KUKA, the robot company. Sadly, before we could see these amazing robots, we had to go to a lecture about politics put on by the University. I am not the least bit interested in politics, so this lecture did not excite me. It was kind of interesting, though, to see some of the differences between the political structure in Germany and the US. Now, in all honesty, I don’t quite understand most of the US government, so trying to understand another country’s government seemed liked a long shot. It kind of was, but I did understand a little bit, mostly about the bigger problems facing Bavaria right now. The one that stood out to me was that Bavaria is facing a “culture war” in which they are trying to find their identity. In other words, they want to know what it means to be a Bavarian. I feel like this is a hard question to answer because being a Bavarian is different for everyone, so there isn’t one answer to this problem. Anyways, that was my struggle through the politics lecture.

So, from the lecture, we had a little bit of time to hang out in the University and work on our presentations. Most of us didn’t have our laptops, so we were able to use the computer labs. I get to the lab and I’m surprised to find that everything is in German. Why I didn’t think this would be the case, I do not know. Well, I get past the initial login and I start working on the presentation. I’m typing and typing and all of the sudden I realize that the Z and the Y keys are switched and there’s a whole lot of other differences that were subtle, but still very noticeable. I never noticed how comfortable I was with the English keyboard until I used that one.

Here we go. Off to KUKA. Woo!

The tour started with a quick history of the company. We walked into this room and they had a really cool looking timeline describing all of the important events that have happened to them. Then, we got to see a video about their newest robot, the iiwa (pronounced Eva). The first thing I thought of when I heard the name was the robot from the movie WALL-E. That, obviously, was not what this robot was, but I still found the correlation funny. From the video, we walked out into this open area where 2 robots were programmed to put on a show for us using these white blocks. It was so cool! Just watching them move was mesmerizing. After the show, we got an up close view of the iiwa. This robot, unlike any others, could be used with a human, so we got to see how that worked. It was pretty cool too; not as cool as the robot show though.

Image result for kuka iiwa

This is where things got interesting. We were given the opportunity to take a picture with a robot, so obviously we did. However, while the KUKA group was taking their picture, the lights flashed on and a there was this noise coming from the one robot. Naturally, everyone turned toward the robot and we found Jeremy standing there in shock because he had just touched the robot when the alarm went off. Of course haha. We can’t go anywhere without making a scene.

Well, once that was all cleared up, we got a factory tour. It started out really cool because they invented these tires that allow a vehicle to move in all directions without turning. We got to witness this first hand with their autonomous forklifts. Fancy right? Anyways, we moved through the tour and things just kept getting more and more boring. It was interesting, don’t get me wrong, but it was all assembly lines and people putting parts together: nothing all that exciting.

The tour finally ends and we move on to a quick presentation and Q&A session. Or so we thought. The session lasted twice as long as we thought it would because there were 2 people answering every question. The presenters were both more knowledgeable of the engineering side of things rather than the business side, so they kept going on about things that I didn’t understand. That just made it even worse. Everyone was on the verge of falling asleep, not necessarily because it was boring, but rather because of how long it had been. It was a rough couple of hours, especially because it wasn’t my company, so there was no real need to pay as close attention as there was for others.

A few very long hours later, we finally end the presentation and we get to leave. Today was also a relatively early end, so we got back to the hotel late afternoon. That gave us plenty of time to work on our presentations again. Unfortunately, the German students from my group were busy tonight, so the group from Pitt decided to get together and work on it ourselves. That pretty much took up the rest of the night. Slowly but surely we’re making progress on this presentation. I cannot wait for it to be over. Stay tuned to see how it goes later this week.

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