Building a Better Robot
Shakhzod Latipov is full of ideas. The George Mason University freshman wants to manufacture high-end electronics that will be available at affordable prices. He has a plan, the seeds of which were planted when he was 14, to build a robot that helps do household chores and responds to oral commands.
Mostly, though, Latipov wants to bring the knowledge he receives as an electrical engineering student back to his native Uzbekistan and help the country become more technologically advanced.
“Even if my dream of opening a firm fails, the demand for specialists [in Uzbekistan], especially those who studied abroad, is huge,” Latipov said. “Finding a job where I get to show my experience and innovate and try to come up with something useful will be enough for me.”
He chose Mason, he said, because of its highly respected engineering program and its suburban location.
“It was clear from his application and academic record that Shakhzod is the type of student that would excel at Mason,” Mason’s Dean of Admissions Amy Takayama-Perez said. “I think our community is going to benefit from his passion and motivation, and I look forward to hearing great things about him.”
Latipov, 18, from Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, is the oldest of five children and has been a builder as long as he can remember. “If I see something broken, I try to fix it,” he said. That sensibility is part of what sparked his idea to build a robot that can do chores such as picking up clothes or moving dishes.
Latipov ordered a remote control and several robot toys that could lift light weights online and used them to build what he described as a mash-up of the material. A small microscheme received commands from the remote. Results were mixed. The one-foot by one-foot robot made of plastic could lift up to a pound, Latipov said. But it looked more like boxy truck than a robot, the batteries didn’t last long and the remote had a joystick.
“The future is not about joysticks,” Latipov said. “The future is you think of something or you make commands verbally and the job is done for you.”
Still, he said he learned a lot from the attempt. “To really learn, studying is not enough,” he said. “You have to try yourself, experiment, go on line, ask friends or go to the library. That way you learn and can be more effective.”
And perhaps build a better robot.