PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute and Entertainment Technology Center will be featured in WQED's newest documentary in the Pittsburgh History Series, Invented, Engineered and Pioneered in Pittsburgh. The program premieres at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 10.
Created in honor of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary, the program shows how much Pittsburgh was, and still is, at the forefront of engineering, invention and technology. It includes vignettes of local pioneers who became world famous, including industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse, bridge builder John Roebling and George Ferris, inventor of the Ferris wheel.
The program's producer is storyteller extraordinaire Rick Sebak whose documentaries about the history of the Pittsburgh region and a variety of topics, including amusement parks, hot dogs and flea markets, have endeared him to a national audience.
Sebak made several trips to the Robotics Institute as he gathered material for the documentary. He toured a number of labs with RI Director Matt Mason, got a first-hand explanation of autonomous helicopters from U.A. and Helen Whitaker University Professor Takeo Kanade, and watched Associate Robotics Professor Howie Choset's snake robots crawl and climb. Sebak was fascinated by the speed and sophistication of Computer Science Professor Manuela Veloso and her students' soccer-playing robots, and made a return visit to learn more from graduate student Stefan Zickler. He made a third visit to catch up on the latest with University Professor William L. Whittaker and get a firsthand look at Boss, Tartan Racing's Chevy Tahoe that won DARPA's Urban Grand Challenge last November.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Pittsburgh History Series. Sebak's first documentary, The Mon the Al & the O," aired in 1988.