Battle Heat: Competitors vie for a
victory at NI Week's annual Robolab event.
Austin, TXóThe palm-sized Lego rover bounces off the wall and rounds a corner, heading towards a corner without side barriers. A standing-room-only crowd wonders whether the high wheels mean it will take the bumpy shortcut, or whether the programmers want their vehicle to take the long, smooth road. Robolab (www.ni.com/company/robolab.htm) was first conceived as a way to get kids interested in engineering, but the applause, sighs, and shouts from NI Week attendees prove that there's a big appeal for adults. Fourteen teams, ranging from teachers to brand new NI employees to college engineers have built vehicles over the course of six hours. Some, like the high school team that has matching team T-shirts, have done this quite a few times, while others prove that whether you're 12 or 50, it's possible to fail in front of a crowd without feeling embarrassed. During the year, when scores of NI employees go to local grade schools to teach kids and teachers how to build and program motorized robots. It's a big thing, with 50 teachers attending a summer course in programming and as many as 500 students and parents coming to NI for the big finale showcase of the vehicles. The focus is on learning, so there aren't any competitions.
Californiaís plan to mandate an electric vehicle market isnít the first such undertaking and certainly wonít be the last. But as the Golden State ratchets up for its next big step toward zero-emission vehicle status in 2018, it might be wise to consider a bit of history.