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Make Robots, Not War
Making robots and making a difference in the world.
Making robots and making a difference in the world.

Make Robots, Not War's posts

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3D Systems prints 140 parts for P51 Combat Fighter motorcycle by Confederate Motors

As any designer will tell you, a design can only be as good as manufacturing realities allow it to be. It’s a problem that has often confronted exclusive motorcycle developers Confederate Motors, who build custom rides for prominent clients such as Tom Cruise and David Beckham. It’s exactly why the company recently teamed up with 3D Systems to develop complete assembly kits for their P51 Combat Fighter motorcycle, consisting of more than 140 different 3D printed parts. The final results perfectly captured the integrated aesthetic Confederate Motors was looking for, and they are already planning to 3D print more motorcycles in the near future.

From 3DSystems blog:

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Equestrian Robots? Yes, please!
Nick Powers uses a LulzBot TAZ 5 to make a mechanical model of a horse in celebration for this years Kentucky Derby via

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Autonomous Robot Surgeon Bests Humans in World First

In a robotic surgery breakthrough, a bot stitched up a pig’s small intestines using its own vision, tools, and intelligence to carry out the procedure. What’s more, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) did a better job on the operation than human surgeons who were given the same task.

STAR’s inventors don’t claim that robots can replace humans in the operating room anytime soon. Instead they see the accomplishment as a proof of concept—both for the specific technologies used and for the general concept of “supervised autonomy” in the OR.

Pediatric surgeon Peter Kim, one of the researchers, didn’t sound threatened when he spoke to reporters in a press call yesterday. “Even though we surgeons take pride in our craft at doing procedures, to have a machine that works with us to improve outcomes and safety would be a tremendous benefit,” he said.

#MedicalBreakthroughs #RoboticsSurgery

Link to original study:
Link to IEEE article:

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We asked America to rethink high school and we still can't believe the response. Thank you to all the teams and participants who submitted their Super School ideas. #RethinkHighSchool at

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Google-owned Boston Dynamics released a video Tuesday of the latest version of Atlas — the humanoid robot that walks upright. It displays astounding balance and nimble footwork, for a 5 ft. 9 in., 180 lb. machine.

Atlas can open doors, hike through snow and stack boxes. It can even stand up to bullies. In one test, a scientist pushes Atlas in the chest with a hockey stick, but the robot catches its balance before tumbling. When the robot is eventually toppled, Atlas can stand back on its own two feet, ready to tackle the next door, box or winter stroll.

If you want to read more:

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During the #3dprinting show and tell today someone brought in these amazing 3D prints of real people's hearts. These are used by surgeons to help them better grasp a patients anatomy before a surgery.
+TXRX Labs | Houston's Hackerspace +Annika O'Brien 

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+TX/RX Labs is supporting artists with grants. You get 6 months and access to everything they have to offer. :)

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Lessons from #IStandWithAhmed  

As soon as I woke up on Wednesday, I was flooded with notifications from people who'd tagged me in various stories about a young Muslim kid who had been arrested after taking a homemade clock to school. Many people reached out to me asking if there's anything I can do to help the 14 year old electronics hobbyist because he lives only a few hours from me in the state of Texas. I'm also a maker and have mentored numerous kids who wanted to get into robotics so my opinion was called upon. While researching the story, I noticed many people had already given their version of the events. Kid goes to school with clock, shows it to teacher, teacher sees he's a Muslim and assumes it's a bomb, teacher calls the cops and he's hauled off to jail. I knew there had to be more to the story than that, fortunately, there was. I mean, I know there's a stigma against Islam in this country right now but I have an extensive background in STEM education (primarily with minorities) and I can't imagine an entire school district ganging up on a kid to get him thrown in jail just because of his religious beliefs. Especially a kid that has been described as well-behaved, mild-mannered and was previously in a robotics club. Even in Texas.

I was able to reach out to Ahmed's parents and offered to let him join the Houston Robotics Club, assisting us in building a telepresence robot and take some free programming classes. I even gave them a list of local resources in Dallas for him to explore. 

Most people reacted by saying Ahmed shouldn't be "making while brown" and focused solely on his skin color. They suggested he move out of the state of Texas, stop being creative and give up on ever having any life as a Muslim in America because minorities can't succeed. For me, this really stung. In the past I've talked about how many kids I've known who didn't want to go on to work in STEM fields because they were discouraged by their own friends and family from going to college, told they were "acting white", and one student I had was sexually harassed regularly by another student, groped and told she was a lesbian because she wanted to be a mechanic. Even in a situation where creating results in sexual assault or being arrested, I would never ever tell a kid to stop making. I would, however, offer some sage advice from the experiences of so many that have persevered through the years. 

Below is a list of what I observed, what I feel is wrong and what I would suggest:

Telling his family to leave Texas

This is extremely ignorant, as it suggests that every person in Texas is against technology and education and if they could only pack up all their possessions and flee like refugees to any other place in the US, it would be paradise for a budding clock builder. It suggests that only Texas makes poor judgement calls on students.

If they lived in California, he would have been given millions in start-up capital

This is also very flawed. He disassembled a clock and put it into a pencil case. Now, from what I've read, this was one of the simplest devices he's made, and I don't want to criticize his work because he's 14 and I know this is not indicative of the kinds of projects he's done in the past, but no, Silicon Valley does not give out millions in venture capital to teenage tinkerers who make clocks. However, this is a great start and I hope he continues to do more projects like this into his adulthood so that when he's ready to bring a unique product to market, he'll have investors who believe in him. However, there's a lot of other places in the US that are closer to his home town that would be a great start for first-round capital, like Houston or Austin. The reason I moved here from California was because I was given opportunities that I would have never been given anywhere else. 

The worst comments I read were that he should return with a real bomb and blow up his school to teach them a lesson. Someone posted that in one of my comment threads which caused a huge fight to break out between my Texas and California friends. Because I don't condone murder, I deleted the entire thread which caused one of my California friends to repeatedly message me telling me that I make them want to vomit because I am weak. I am not a violent person and I shouldn't be forced to keep hate speech in my own thread when I am friends with kids and families who live in Texas. #NotAllTexans  

After reading the local versions of the story, prior to it making it into Gawker (who used a fake photo they lifted from an DIY site), I started to understand how something so innocuous as a kid bringing a clock to school could get blown out of proportion. The original story states that Ahmed showed his science teacher the device who told him it was cool but to not show it to any of the other teachers, I assume because he realized that a box of exposed electronics could be misconstrued as something harmful. Anyone who's ever worked with kids building rockets, playing with chemistry sets or creating electronics has had to give that warning. It's not telling the kid that there's anything wrong with what they're doing, but not everybody knows the difference between a bundle of wires and a timer for a bomb. In hindsight, the teacher could have probably offered to keep his project until after school, which is a very common practice in schools. In college, we had a lockup area for things that we shouldn't be hauling around campus with us, like ferric chloride. In fact, if you were found with any amount of ferric chloride outside of the fabrication building, you were immediately expelled, no questions asked.

How do we ensure kids aren't being arrested for building clocks? 

The current Zero Tolerance policy in schools is over 20 years old. It's from before kids were soldering circuit boards to make Arduino pencil launchers and twitter-controlled lamps. We didn't have MAKE magazine and most people had never opened a desktop computer tower to upgrade their RAM. Things have changed. People like myself who've been disassembling electronics their entire life are becoming increasingly popular. If anything, the Maker movement is opening the doors to young kids of all ethnicities and backgrounds because the cost of creating is becoming much more affordable. By robotics club springing up in communities and schools, it gives more opportunities to children who don't come from a family of engineers or scientists. I started with a Commodore 64 in the 80's that my parents spent months saving up for and it didn't even have the computing power of my current phone. The fact that we can purchase an entire box of parts online and have it shipped to our homes, then download the software and learn to program it over the Internet is amazing. All kids should get that experience. Zero Tolerance doesn't allow for creativity because it requires teachers to use outdated definitions to have a child arrested for whatever they perceive to be a threat to students. When I was a kid, I remember getting in trouble for my curiosity, but it would have never gotten me arrested. Kids were expected to do dumb things and hurt themselves sometimes. 

Off-topic: I used to teach a soldering class to children between the ages of 8-12 and the very first thing I told all of my students and their parents was "You are going to burn yourself and cut yourself. But if you are careful, you won't hurt yourself too bad." I didn't use lead-free solder either but I taught all of the students that they are working with a toxic substance and if they wear eye protection, don't breathe in the fumes and wash their hands thoroughly afterward, they would be fine. Rarely did anyone burn or cut themselves so every class ended with people feeling better than they would have had I given them the illusion that they weren't playing with hot and sharp tools. 

-+Annika O'Brien 

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French 3D-printing company Fabulous has brought together a team of scientists and architects to imagine a bubble-shaped habitat for Mars that can be printed on the red planet.

The Sfero house features an internal and external dome, with a protective pocket of water between the two. A single corridor rests on the planet's surface and allows access to the interior, which would have an upper and lower level linked by a spiral staircase.

Conceptual drawings show plants being grown indoors, with workstations upstairs and suspended sleeping areas downstairs.

Led by Fabulous, the project team united a range of disciplines, with scientists, architects, image specialists and 3D-printing specialists all contributing to the Sfero habitat design.

If you read French and would like to know more:

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A 39-year-old man who had had been completely paralyzed for four years was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take thousands of steps in a "robotic exoskeleton" device during five days of training -- and for two weeks afterward -- a team of UCLA scientists reports this week.

This is the first time that a person with chronic, complete paralysis has regained enough voluntary control to actively work with a robotic device designed to enhance mobility. 

via: ScienceDaily

In addition to the robotic device, the man was aided by a novel noninvasive spinal stimulation technique that does not require surgery. His leg movements also resulted in other health benefits, including improved cardiovascular function and muscle tone.

The new approach combines a battery-powered wearable bionic suit that enables people to move their legs in a step-like fashion, with a noninvasive procedure that the same researchers had previously used to enable five men who had been completely paralyzed to move their legs in a rhythmic motion. That earlier achievement is believed to be the first time people who are completely paralyzed have been able to relearn voluntary leg movements without surgery. (The researchers do not describe the achievement as "walking" because no one who is completely paralyzed has independently walked in the absence of the robotic device and electrical stimulation of the spinal cord.)

In the latest study, the researchers treated Mark Pollock, who lost his sight in 1998 and later became the first blind man to race to the South Pole. In 2010, Pollock fell from a second-story window and suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

At UCLA, Pollock made substantial progress after receiving a few weeks of physical training without spinal stimulation and then just five days of spinal stimulation training in a one-week span, for about an hour a day.
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