Day Nine: Politics and KUKA

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Day nine. My body has started to hate me. I have walked 51.9 miles since the start of this trip and its starting to catch up to me. I must persevere. I am here for a good time not a long time.

Anyway, today started with a lecture on politics in Germany at the University of Augsburg. To be honest, I do not pay much attention to politics and I do not really care for it. This is probably due to the large amounts of work the school of engineering says I have to do – but I digress. The professor who was lecturing kept me interested and I feel that I learned some stuff about German politics. The lecturer was able to relate a lot of German politics to American which was helpful, but it also proved how little I know about American politics.

After this lecture it was time for us to visit KUKA robotics. KUKA is the company that I was assigned to, so it was time to get serious. KUKA is in Augsburg so it was only a short tram ride away. The visit started in a showroom off the entrance which introduced us to the company. It had a graphic on the wall that showed the development of KUKA from a company who manufactured lights to the robotics manufacturer it is today. Also in this showroom were four robots, two of which were programmed to display the capabilities of these robots. We were able to get a group picture next to one of the other robots and this concluded are stay in the showroom.

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The next part of the tour was the manufacturing building of these robots. Upon entering I noticed a cart that had wheels that allowed it to travel in any direction. All I could think was “where were these wheels when I was learning to parallel park?” As we continued on the tour I noticed that there were a mix of robots and humans building the robots. I was hoping that a company at the forefront of autonomous robotics would have their robots building new robots. I guess robot technology has not advanced to the point where robots build robots.

After the tour was over we were able to meet with two of KUKA’s engineers. During their presentation they highlighted some of the new technology that they have developed. During other company tours the presenters talked a lot about their market share and what portions of the business generate the most revenue. A lot of business stuff. While this is all good, I was not as interested in that. Finding out how things work and the science behind them is what I am all about and this KUKA presentation gave me those answers. The one new robot that caught my eye was the iiwa (pronounced eva) robot. Instead of the customary six axes of motion it had a seventh which allowed it to act like a human arm. I was not paying attention to the clock, but it seemed like everyone else was. The presentation ended up being around two hours and I enjoyed every moment of it, but some of the others did not appreciate it as much.

I had worked up a ferocious appetite by the end of the day and needed food as soon as possible. Once we got off the tram I headed for food. I followed the rest of our group to get doner. Doner is similar to a gyro but it is made with chicken or beef. The meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and is shaved off when you order. It was served quickly, and it tasted great, and after the first bite I knew I was going to be coming back before I left. This was a great end to a great day.

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