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Census 2010: Counting The Robots
August 31, 2010

Data gathering for the U.S. 2010 Census may be finished, but it has just begun for the Robot Census 2010. Heather Knight, a first-year PhD student in the Robotics Institute, has launched the unprecedented effort to count every robot residing in Carnegie Mellon University’s laboratories.

The idea occurred to Knight and her fellow first-years after listening to faculty presentations during this term’s grad student immigration course. “As much as we’re here for the professors,” she explained, “we’re also here for the robots.” With no full accounting available of CMU robots – much less a list of the coolest robots with the wackiest names -- the obvious next step was a census.

Knight and her designer friend Chris Becker created a PDF form, seeking information regarding the status, year of creation and location of each robot, and distributed it within the Robotics Institute via email. Though she has requested that forms be filled out and returned by Sept. 8, she realizes nothing is that simple for a census taker. “It raises the question, of course, of what is a robot,” she noted. And busy professors already are handing the forms off to busy grad students. “I suspect it will require a fair amount of door-to-door footwork to get this finished,” she added. Contact her via email for information or to volunteer.