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Real and Imagined Robots unite as Carnegie Mellon and Carnegie Science Center announce the first inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame.


(right) R2-D2—the ultimately helpful and friendly robot from Star Wars.









































“The best cooks in Pittsburgh come through these doors,” says Kitchen Theater’s Tom Barnard of the grandmothers who love to share advice with him.



















What is the Robot Hall of Fame? It was conceived by Carnegie Mellon’s James Morris, dean of Computer Science, who assembled a panel of 13 world-wide experts to choose the most significant robots, real and fictional, that have impacted the lives of human beings. After 25 years of leadership in robotics science, Carnegie Mellon wanted to showcase Pittsburgh as the place where robots are really understood. The university then turned to Carnegie Science Center as its public partner in this enterprise. Ellsworth Brown, president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, was on the panel that selected the first four robots for induction into the Hall.

At Carnegie Science Center the display for the Robot Hall of Fame is located at the entrance to Robotics, the Science Center exhibition that demonstrates how robotic technology has changed modern life. This entertaining, hands-on exhibit can be seen through September 6, 2004. To share the Robot Hall of Fame with the rest of the world, Carnegie Mellon asked Wall-to-Wall Studios of Pittsburgh to develop an online site at www.robothalloffame.org.

Robots have a long history in the human imagination, from moving statues in the time of the ancient Greeks to automatons in the 1700s that could play chess. Even the 19th century Pinocchio was a talking piece of wood—a humanoid—that wanted to become a real boy.

In our time, fictional robots have become movie stars. In the Star Wars trilogy, the chirping, whistling droid R2-D2 fascinated people all over the world, including James Morris, dean of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. “R2-D2 represents our highest hope for what robots might do for humans,” Morris says. “He performs countless services and saves the lives of humans many times. He seems to understand technology deeply and responds to human needs unerringly. He does not try to imitate humans or compete with them. He's all robot!"

On behalf of Carnegie Museums, President Ellsworth Brown says, “Through the work of our staff at Carnegie Science Center, we share the university’s passion for this exciting area of scientific development, and we’re committed to working together to engage and educate wider audiences in the many applications of robots.”

And the Winners Are…
The inauguration ceremony at Carnegie Science Center on November 11, 2003, drew more than 300 people, including representatives for the four famous robots nominated—R2-D2, HAL, Unimate, and Sojourner.

R2-D2’s movie-star opposite is the malevolent HAL from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the judges who put HAL in the Hall of Fame agreed that he posed profound questions about robots. HAL is a fiction created by writer Arthur C. Clark, but HAL has had a lasting effect in the real world. The dulcet-toned but ultimately dangerous HAL has inspired astronauts, scientists, and philosophers to duplicate its powers, and also caused people to fear that intelligent machines go out of control, they could prove fatal to humankind.

Real life robots have always been super-achievers, making life better for humans by performing monotonous, difficult, and dangerous jobs, as well as tasks impossible for people to do. Two remarkable robots inaugurated into the Robot Hall of Fame are the industrial-strength Unimate—a robotic arm now used universally in manufacturing—and the lightweight genius of Martian research, Sojourner, a little machine that lived seven times longer than expected while it roved the surface of the red planet and sent back invaluable data.

Accepting the award for the robotic arm Unimate was the “father of robotics,” Joseph F. Engleberger, who designed it for use on a General Motors assembly line in 1961. Today the 4,000-pound arm has evolved into an industry-standard machine that does everything from forging to spray painting. “If you are in one of those businesses today and you’re not using robots, you’re losing money,’ Engleberger says.

Representing NASA and Sojourner (officially known as Mars Pathfinder Microrover Flight Experiment) was Jake Matiljevic, manager of the project. In 1997 the three-month mission made history by broadcasting details about the surface of Mars from 122 million miles away. Matiljevic pointed out that Sojourner was the forerunner of two new Mars Exploration Rovers, called Spirit and Opportunity, scheduled to land on the Red Planet in January 2004.

Sojourner—a roving robot that sent valuable
information back from Mars.

To accept the award for R2-D2 and Lucasfilm was the director of special programs, Kathleen Holliday, as well as two key actors in the original film—David Prowse who played Darth Vader, and Kenny Baker who played R2-D2.

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, who lives in Sri Lanka, could not attend, but sent a letter to be read. In it, he noted that HAL is a character that has stuck to him: “I’ve programmed my computer so that when I ask it to do something impossible, it answers soothingly, ‘I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do that.’”


Featured Favorite
Cooking up Science in the Kitchen Theater

Carnegie Science Center’s Kitchen Theater has a little bit of everything—humor, science, and tasty tidbits to try. And to create each show, the three-person Kitchen Theater crew has to do a little bit of everything.

Unlike a TV cooking show, the Kitchen Theater has no directors, writers, cameramen, sound technicians, or prep people behind the scenes assisting the chef. All those jobs—plus the actual presentation—are left to Tom Barnard, Richard Johnson, and Apryl Sparbanie.

So who are these multi-talented individuals? Well, Barnard completed a culinary apprenticeship and has a degree from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Sparbanie majored in theater at Edinboro University, and Johnson’s computer animation and multimedia degree is used to create animations—shown on the Kitchen Theater’s TVs during shows—that explain the recipe’s science. “Richard is also a good cook,” says Barnard. “He will ‘massage’ recipes and make them better.”

Weekly meetings, which include other Science Center staff members, cover everything from how to draw bigger audiences and cleanliness (like any restaurant, the Kitchen Theater must meet health board standards) to logistics, when to retire a show, and what new recipes to try. When possible, a program will be linked to a new exhibit. For instance, when Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure was shown at the Omnimax Theater, the staff prepared plum pudding—the last dish the crew ate before setting sail.

Since scripts for each 15- to 20-minute show provide background information about only the recipe and the science principles, performances must be ad libbed. Frequent rehearsals help, but since shows are tailored to the audience—be it preschoolers, teens, or seniors (evening shows for adults are in the works)—the run-throughs act only as a starting point. The ability to think on their feet is a must for any Kitchen Theater presenter as anything can happen—strange questions from the audience, a mixer that won’t mix, and the inevitable spilt milk.

Even the grocery shopping is left to the crew. Barnard visits the Strip District twice a week to buy supplies, figuring quantity on what the attendance for that day was over the last three years. Barnard, Johnson, and Sparbanie do the prep work—which can take 20 minutes to three hours depending on the recipe—with help from volunteers Marion Jack and Nan Stedford. Considering there are at least three Kitchen Theater shows scheduled daily during the week (that number rises on school group days, weekends, and during the holidays) with only 90 minutes between performances, that’s a lot of dicing, chopping, and washing.

Finally, Kitchen Theater presenters must be people-persons.

“ I love the kids,” says Johnson. “Everyone I work with is great and we really work off each other well, but the energy the kids give you is the best.”

Kitchen Theater is funded by H.J. Heinz Company Foundation, Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, Woodmode Cabinetry and Marcus Kitchens, Corin by Dupont, and Kitchen Aid.

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