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A real life robot battle: America vs Japan

(BUSINESS NEWS) Robots are real and America is fresh out of a battle with Japan in a real life robot battle royale.

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What’s the future of sports look like?

Giant. Fighting. Robots.

That’s right, your childhood dreams have arrived, at least I know mine have.

Two years ago, American robotics firm, MegaBots Inc., challenged Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a showdown of the battle of the mechs. The challenge was accepted, but with one simple caveat: the inclusion of melee combat.

And so the Super Heavyweight Title Fight two-years in the making premiered on leading social video platform, Twitch, yesterday evening to tech and sci-fi fans alike who waited with baited breath for such an event.

In order to prepare for the match, the American team needed to build a new bot capable of fulfilling the duel requirement, as well as one that would be a force to be reckoned with against the Japanese fighting machine.

MegaBots, or “Team America,” was able to crowdfund the robot battle through a Kickstarter campaign earning over $500,000 by just under 8,000 backers. With this campaign, they were also able to upgrade their Mk.II behemoth that would be entering the rumble.

Meet Eagle Prime.

More metal. More power. More American.

According to MegaBots, Eagle Prime “weighs in at 12 tons, stands 16 feet tall, seats two, is powered by a 430 horsepower V8 LS3 engine, and costs a cool $2.5M.” This robot is massive; a good foot higher than its predecessor.

Founders Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti commented on the design of Eagle Prime, quipping, “We made it huge and strapped guns to it;” as American as apple pie.

Suidobashi’s robot, KURATAS, stands a few feet shorter (about 13 feet tall), but carries a more sleek and elegant design to it. With a tripod-wheeled base and twin Gatling BB canons with the ability to fire 6,000 bullets per second, it seemed a toss-up as to who would reign supreme in the first mech battle.

While this sounds like an epic episode of awesomeness, don’t expect Pacific Rim level combat just yet. Rather than give a play-by-play of the event, I’ll just tell you straight away that Eagle Prime came out on top in the brawl. To be fair though, it really wasn’t much of a brawl.

Eagle Prime had two years of extra time to be built in preparation for such a match against Kuratas. It was made bigger (and for “funzies”, added patriotic colors to the bot as well as a head of a bald eagle for a “head” as well as a chainsaw-sword-type of device that likely, and ultimately, ended up costing Kuratas a pretty penny in damages.

Really, Kuratas had no chance: there was a bit of overkill on the part of Eagle Prime.

The chain-sword alone raises some safety concerns, especially when we’re talking the future of sports. That said, the pilots of both mechs, Eagle Prime piloted by both Oehrlein and Cavalcanti and Kuratas by Kogoro Kurata, could use a bit more protective gear than helmets, even if the robots in action look like a couple of toddlers fighting.

But hey, it’s a start. And that’s the point.

Maybe one day we will be in giant stadium arenas watching huge robots piloted by humans hashing it out, but we’ve got a long ways to go. And maybe, just maybe, these things could be of use in natural disaster efforts.

Who wouldn’t want to be saved by an Optimus Prime-like, human-piloted “robot” that could withstand whatever was thrown its way?

It’s going to be an expensive endeavor that will require a nice chunk of change in investments and endorsements, though I will say, what a time to be alive.

Ashe Segovia is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Southwestern University. A huge film nerd with a passion for acting and 80's movies and synthpop; the pop-cultural references are never-ending.

Business News

The best jobs in America, 2018 edition

(BUSINESS NEWS) Is your job on the list of the best jobs? Is this your year?

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Whether you love or hate your job, like any other human, you want to know how it ranks on the list of all occupations. And also like any other human, you know that the tech industry is going to dominate any ranked list of this nature.

And of course, you’re right.

Indeed’s 2018 list of The Best Jobs in the United States, the top 25 are mostly tech jobs.

The jobs themselves range wildly in terms of salary, required education level, field, and availability, though all fall above the $75,000 per year mark. As is to be expected, a large number of the jobs in question are located in the tech field, though you might be surprised to see several other fields holding prominent spots as well.

One such field is construction, though there are a couple of caveats in the field’s growth itself. As job persuasions such as construction management and construction estimator make their way onto the list of the top 25 jobs of 2018, the respective hiring departments are forced to contend with decreasing searches for construction jobs as the year has progressed.

While the results should speak for themselves, it’s clear that anyone looking to hire in the construction field will have a bit of pandering on their hands.

Tech jobs such as full stack developer and computer vision engineer are still at the top of the list – a position which hasn’t changed much from last year – and the actual number one spot, while not quite as tech-oriented as past years, is commercial project manager.

Indeed notes that the position of the role of machine learning engineer is especially surprising (spot number 4) given its number 17 spot on last year’s list.

Naturally, the rise in self-driving technology and the interest in AI has most likely influenced the sudden jump this year; if you’re someone with the proper education and skills in the machine learning department, this should be your year.

A couple of outliers on the list include plumbing engineer (spot number 14), registered nurse in the infusion field (spot number 24), and optometrist (spot number 7). As Indeed points out, healthcare roles in 2018 have made an unexpected appearance on this list; naturally, such positions fall on the “more education” side of the spectrum, but their involvement makes for a nice contrast with the normal tech backdrop.

The full top 25 list:

  1. Commercial project manager
  2. Full stack developer
  3. Computer vision engineer
  4. Machine learning engineer
  5. Preconstruction manager
  6. Construction superintendent
  7. Optometrist
  8. Data scientist
  9. Chief estimator
  10. Development operations engineer
  11. Agile coach
  12. Construction estimator
  13. Senior talent acquisition manager
  14. Plumbing engineer
  15. Project superintendent
  16. Staff pharmacist
  17. Head of sales
  18. Commercial real estate agent
  19. Construction manager
  20. Project architect
  21. Product owner
  22. Senior clinical specialist
  23. UX researcher
  24. Registered nurse – infusion
  25. Partnership manager

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Business News

How the Lean concept can have the biggest impact on your bottom line

(BUSINESS) Using the Lean business concept and asking the non-sexy question of “What’s dumb around here?” your business will outpace your competitors in no time.

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Entrepreneurs love solving problems. That’s what they’re good at doing. In fact, the more complex, difficult and messy the problem, the more the entrepreneur will enjoy the challenge. Entrepreneurs are especially good at solving problems that nobody knew were there. Think about Steve Jobs: He knew that we needed a pocket MP3 player before we even knew what it was.

While entrepreneurs are coming up with the next “big” thing, we need the non-entrepreneurs in our organizations focused on solving the small problems in our company with the same enthusiasm. Imagine if every one of your team members were consistently looking for opportunities to improve your systems, processes and service delivery. Those subtle changes made in the non-sexy parts of the business usually have the biggest impact on the bottom line.

This is a business concept called Lean, in which a company changes their processes to create the most benefit to the customer using the least amount of resources possible. Lean is commonly used in the manufacturing industry, but its principles can be used in any business to change the way of thinking and doing things.

I recently witnessed a great example of how Lean principles were used to improve one of my clients, LuminUltra – a leading provider of microbiological testing hardware, software and services. The company serves industries that need to know quickly and accurately what’s living in their water. At a recent quarterly planning session at the LuminUltra offices in Fredericton, Canada, COO Charlie Younger shared a powerful story about the company’s manufacturing facility and challenging the status quo.

During the expansion of the company’s manufacturing facility, one of the team members was lamenting to Charlie about how much time it took to complete a lengthy step of the manufacturing process – one specific quality check that was very time-consuming. He remarked that in the history of the company they never had a single machine fail the test. Charlie’s first thought was, do they even need to perform this specific test again?

After more discussion with colleagues, the team realized that the other quality checks performed earlier in the manufacturing process would always identify a defective unit. With this knowledge, the manufacturing team asked for permission to perform minimal testing to still provide assurance with less work. When presented with the information, the company leadership agreed that it was a great idea and would save time and money as well as improve the employee experience. But the bigger question was: Why hadn’t anyone ever questioned this lengthy step of the manufacturing process before?

Charlie, having run Lean programs in the past, has seen this issue before: People continue to do what they’ve always done even if they think there is a better way. He thought this would be a great opportunity to use a fun, simple but elegant technique to capture other status quo breakers – in other words, he decided to use the same principles for changing the company’s production process to make other company decisions.

With that, he posted a whiteboard in the manufacturing room with the title “What’s Dumb Around Here?” and encouraged team members to capture possible “dumb things” to add to it. These topics are discussed and vetted during their Lean process meetings to determine if they can be improved.

When I discussed the new process with Charlie, he noted, “First, you have to create an environment where people are willing to question the status quo. We have always been highly focused on quality and accuracy, so the team thought it was outrageous to openly question a quality check we had been performing for years.”

He continued, “You have to help your management team be open to receiving ideas that might seem crazy and not overreact to the suggestions. Instead, simply ask them to explain their logic. More often than not, the front line knows a better way to do things but does not know how to navigate the change. The beauty of using Lean techniques is that you now have an easy navigation path to discuss, approve and roll out changes. Suddenly, you have an energized front line solving problems with minimal involvement from management – how great is that?”

While LuminUltra continues to grow their product line and expand into new markets, it expects that its implementation of Lean principles will help it make subtle but important modifications to processes that will positively affect its bottom line. The CEO, Pat Whalen, remarked, “If we can produce our products faster and more cost effectively and get them into the hands of our customers faster, we can have an even bigger impact on the water sector with our microbiological monitoring products. I need all of our team members thinking how we can improve every single day. The water sector needs us.”

Every visionary, big-thinking entrepreneur needs a team that challenges the status quo. How are you encouraging your team members to identify, “What’s Dumb Around Here?”

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Business News

Verb develops your team’s talent while making a major social impact

(BUSINESS NEWS) Any sized team can improve their talent, but add in a dash of social good, and Verb has the platform to rule them all.

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More organizations are looking to offer training opportunities for their employees (but with an emphasis on more efficiency, cost effectiveness, and impact than traditional classroom instruction) – and there are a number of solutions. Organizations can seek to leverage those same on-demand resources that consumers are using (Like Lynda.com) or using their own internal corporate learning solutions to host content (like Cornerstone On-Demand, Accord, or other LMS (that’s uh – Learning Management System, non-talent TD folks)) providers, and hope by doing so they develop employees and solve the variety of skill gaps that are emerging for a millennial and post-millennial workforce.

Verb seeks to offer a flexible learning solution that also solves a secondary challenge: getting employees to be more engaged with work.

The product offers subscription style learning, offering focusing on the core skills like communication and leadership skills. Specific skill development is bestowed upon employees through four types of learning elements: articles, activities, courses, and impact programs. This suggests that the learning is focused not only on content and theoretical learning, but also activity based and impact styles of learning to help employees transfer those skills into the workplace.

The standout of this learning solutions it that it seeks to drive in something that a lot of young professions seek – purpose.

Verb connects with social impact organizations to facilitate learning opportunities and promote development. A great example from their blog is a Summer partnership with United Way for Greater Austin (check it out) where they conducted a five-week leadership program that taught local nonprofit professionals how to communicate their organizational strategy and mission more effectively with pitch decks.

Adding in purpose is an emphasis on mentoring, where social entrepreneurs can become impact partners and connect with brands to help improve their visibility, awareness, and credibility.

Social entrepreneurs have a real opportunity to generate their visibility and gain more attention, companies like Sproutel (which have this awesome story about Jerry the Bear – you’re gonna cry if you watch it!) or TOMS both have gained some attention via Verb.

The benefits here are pretty clear – organizations can get a learning solution that helps them develop their employees more effectively and can collect learning metrics that help justify their expense and demonstrate impact.

The most highly regarded quality is mentoring opportunities created to connect them with social impact organizations – and those social entrepreneurs benefit from their visibility. From a learning professional – the opportunity to have experience learning, mentoring, and an engagement opportunity seems like a rare bundle – and one that can be particularly valuable for large and small organizations.

Talent development is a significant investment, and Verb looks like a pretty awesome solution that can nestle in beside other talent development strategies.

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