U of U student builds functioning robot

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-10 19:45:20-05

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- A young University of Utah student built a functioning robot in about 40 hours and for roughly $60, and he hopes he can help young kids get excited about math and science.

19-year-old Duc Lam said his love of putting things together started many years ago.

“I would always break electronics apart and build them back together, yeah, I just find it interesting,” he said.

Lam, who studies electrical engineering, came from Vietnam to the U.S. when he was five years old. He said his parents sacrificed a great deal to get him to America, where he said there is more opportunity for education than in Vietnam.

“People are really poor, and some pass high school,” he said.

Lam said his hobby is also his future—and he hopes to build the things he dreams of.

“You know when you go to sleep you hit an epiphany,” he said. “You wake up, and you have this really good idea, and I just wrote all of those ideas down on paper and just took it from there.”

Lam’s robot doesn’t have a name, but the inspiration for its design was born several years ago after Lam watched the movie “Wall-E.” But it wasn’t until last December that Lam was able to mesh his vision and his practical skills together to make the robot.

The robot has three modes: explore, lazy and party. The robot can dodge obstacles as it moves around and even dance. Lam built the robot during his Christmas vacation.

Lam said he hopes his message will help young children take an interest in math and science. He said many kids shy away from these fields out of fear.

“As you are going through school you can’t, you kind of lose that interest, or you kind of lose that creativity because classes are too hard or too boring, and they end up losing all that creativity,” Lam said.