Industry: Electronics & Aerospace
Products: Educational Robots
Safety education a serious mission for Scott George’s cast of quirky robots
Scott George, the founder of Robotronics, was a senior studying engineering at Brigham Young University when he took a robot he built to a university sports event.
“I demonstrated what it could do during half-time, and I was asked by someone at the game what I was going to do with it,” George says. “We started talking about some possibilities, and the company actually grew out of that conversation.”
The original robot was in the shape of a fire hydrant. It lit up, squirted water, and was fully animated.
“We started to think that we could use a fire hydrant robot to teach kids about fire safety. Hearing about fire safety from a robot would be a lot cooler than an adult telling you to stop, drop and roll and to not play with matches,” George says.
Today, Robotronics manufactures educational robots that utilize computer, electronic, audio, automation, interactive animatronic and remote control technologies to promote safety education for children. “We primarily manufacture costumes and robots to teach kids in a more interesting way, a way that kids are more receptive to versus having a human adult human deliver a presentation to them. For example, kids love fire fighters, but they love robots even more, so if a robot in the shape of a fire truck with a talking Dalmatian fire dog was having a conversation with them, interacting with them in real time, squirting water, dancing, playing songs, etc. then they are more inclined to listen to a robot than a fire fighter, even though fire fighters are really cool in kids' eyes,” Powelson says.
The robots are sold at a high price point, making them generally affordable only to fire departments, school districts, police departments or military branches which have resources to spend on education safety programs. They are manufactured in Robotronic’s Springville, Utah warehouse. “Some of the parts and components, the raw materials, are bought from outside of Utah. But they all come here and are put together in Springville,” George says.
Many of the messages shared by the robots since 1983 have remained the same. But the robots themselves are updated at least every five years. “We’re in the safety education field,” Powelson says. “What we did in 1983 is primitive compared to what we do now. We are constantly challenged to keep internal electrical components and computerized parts on the cutting edge. We are staying on that edge as best as we can.”
Challenges: Declining budgets. Robotronics has seen money moved away from education safety programs. “School districts, fire departments, they do not have the same budgets they did even 15 years ago. We have had to adjust to tighter budgets,” Powelson says.
Opportunities: New products. Robotronics is expanding its line of mascot costumes. “A lot of them are animated,” Powelson says. “The eyes will blink randomly to mimic the blinking pattern of humans. They can wink. The mouth opens and closes in sync with the words spoken. You can also open the mouth independently and make the mascot look like they are smiling. And headsets are built in so when the mascot is speaking, their voices are amplified.”
Need: A streamlined vision. “We have a great line of products,” Powelson says. “We are well-established in the industry. But with tighter budgets, it is a good time for us to focus on what we have and get even better at what we are offering.”