By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA

Nearly 100 children and parents took part in two interactive sessions on the use of “Robotics in Construction,” part of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) contribution to “Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work” day at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) April 28. The DOT was just one of many employers across the country participating in the 23rd annual event. This year’s theme, “Sparking Aha! Moments,” was a perfect fit to show off ARTBA member company Trimble’s robotic equipment, used in highway road construction to help productivity on work sites.

Local Trimble distributor, SITECH Chesapeake, explained to the standing room only crowd how construction surveying equipment uses GPS and lasers to better position and then guide larger construction equipment at a job site. A hands-on demonstration let children touch and get a feel for several pieces of the equipment used by construction companies to “speak to” and connect machinery in the field.

Bryan Cawley from the FHWA’s Office of Infrastructure explained to the many parent chaperones in the session that, while it looks like their children may be playing video games, their use of joysticks could actually be considered training for the use of robotic equipment later on in life. Cawley presented videos, including one showing a quadcopter—popular with both the children and parents – making use of robotic equipment to create 3-D images for the construction industry.

Students learned from the SITECH employees how the GPS satellite-based navigation system began through the U.S. Department of Defense. They also learned what LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, surveying technology is and how it’s used by companies to create 3-D mapping in the highway construction field. Robotic equipment can be used in many different construction applications, such as on large machinery like excavators, bulldozers and pavers;  by site surveyors to measure, stake and inspect job sites; and within software to connect offices with the field.

ARTBA thanks Bryan Cawley and his colleagues at FHWA for their special invitation to participate in this event, and ARTBA Board member Larry O’Brien of John Deere Construction and Forestry for his assistance in identifying the presenters from Trimble.