Day 9: “Who touched my robot?”

Monday, May 14

This morning at 9:15 we left the hotel to catch a street car to the University, where we listened to a talk about German politics. The presentation was very interesting because it brought up many connections between current political issues in America and in Germany. One main theme is this concept of the two nations suffering an “identity crisis”. Extreme political polarization is seen in both countries, a direct result of people with differing ideologies being dissatisfied with the current government. In Germany, this sentiment led to the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany” or AfD), a right-extremist party that now has representation in German parliament. In America… well we all know what happened. I don’t want to delve too deeply into politics in this post, but I think most people from both countries would agree that there are better ways to run a government than with this “my way or the highway” mentality.

After this thought-provoking talk, it was about 11:00. We were again given coupons in order to eat at the Mensa for lunch, and our next meeting place would be by the street car at the University at 1:30. All of us stuck around to take advantage of the better WiFi in order to get some work done on our final presentations. After eating lunch, we then took the street car over to KUKA, a robotics company!

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Their tour was really in-depth! The first room we went into was called the “KUKA Experience”. It was kind of like a dark mini-museum that showcased some of the company’s robots and highlighted their abilities. For example, one of the programs displayed two robots that each held a large block. These two blocks fit together in a certain way, and the robotic arms were able to demonstrate their wide range of mobility in doing “tricks” with these blocks.

Unfortunately, we were not permitted to digitally record anything in that room. In fact, the security was probably heavier than what we witnessed. At one point, someone accidentally touched one of the robots, and all the lights in the room suddenly turned on. Everyone froze. The tour guide looked around suspiciously and asked, “Who touched my robot?” Note to self: Never try to steal a KUKA robot. It probably won’t end well.

Anyway, after the “KUKA Experience”, we went to another part of the facility where the robots are actually made. We entered the assembly area on the finished end, walked the production line backwards, and then came back again. The entire warehouse was robot-inception: robots building other robots. After all this time seeing KUKA robots at work in other factories, it was cool to finally see how they were made too!

Once we finished the tour, we returned to the main building, where two representative KUKA engineers gave a presentation about the robots and KUKA’s recent innovation with the iiwa (pronounced: “Eva”) robot. It is designed like a human arm, giving it seven degrees of mobility (the maximum that is physically possible) and allowing it to perform a greater variety of tasks.

After an extensive Q&A session, we bid farewell to KUKA and boarded the next street car back to Königsplatz. From here, our group split off to go to different places for dinner. I went with a group of people that decided to go back to the Döner restaurant from a few nights ago.

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Now, traveling in a large group, it’s hard not to attract attention in public places, especially because we are all so blatantly American. But anything that we have done so far doesn’t even come close to the extent to which we commanded the attention of the entire restaurant that night.

So we walked in and found an area to sit that was big enough for all of us. No sooner had most of us sat down than Liam’s chair suddenly splintered underneath him, and he fell to the ground! A staff member came rushing over to make sure he was okay, and the first thing Liam said was, “I don’t think I’ve gained that much weight on this trip…”

It was scary at first, but we wound up laughing about it afterwards. The man brought over a new chair, and we settled down to decide what we wanted to eat. At some point, Arman left to go to the bathroom, because a few minutes later, we heard a loud beeping noise. At first, I thought it was an oven from the kitchen or something, but the noise didn’t stop. Liam was the first to mention something about the sound, and, not missing an opportunity, some of us jokingly asked him what noise he was talking about, and if he had hit his head too hard when he hit the ground. Then, Megan pointed to the other side of the room and said, “I think it’s Arman.”

We looked over, and there was Arman, emerging from the handicapped bathroom. He had accidentally pulled the emergency alarm instead of the light switch. A restaurant employee came rushing over to the bathroom to see what the matter was, but Arman just walked out with a painfully sheepish look on his face.

That adventure was, and is, extremely funny, but we came to realization that we could never come back to that place ever again.

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Step count: 13,722

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