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Innovation Summit offers glimpse of future of robotics

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York Exponential CEO John McElligot demonstrates how a standard gripper robot called “Shipley” can execute a task programmed by humans at the Augment Summit 2019 an Innovation Summit held at Hibiscus Hall in Fiesta Resort & Spa last week. (Bea Cabrera)

The CNMI Department of Commerce in collaboration with the Commonwealth Development Authority initiated the first Innovation Summit last week at Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan’s Hibiscus Hall.

The event highlighted technology as a means of gearing up for the future.

According to Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco Control Division director David Maratita, the innovation summit is a follow through of the business summit held last September.

“One thing that Secretary Mark Rabauliman is in tuned with is how technology affects our lives here in the CNMI whether at home, school, work, the hospital, and church, technology is there,” he said.

“We believe that this is a means for us to embrace and to be comfortable with technology and innovation. This also makes us informed and catch up on what’s coming,” Maratita added.

York Exponential CEO John McElligot is in town to create awareness of a specific kind of technology, which is robotics.

The company is based in York, Pennsylvania and is leading the way in bringing advanced technologies to businesses. They promote robotics, which they call “cobots” as a service and integrate them into a company’s human workforce.

“Our company is into building the ecosystems surrounding the robots where people can understand, augment, and assemble robotics. Right now, creating awareness in the CNMI is the first phase of a much larger plan,” he said

“Once that plan comes into fruition that’s where we think the real opportunity will come for all the communities all across the United States,” he added

McElligot brought a sample robot, an end effector which is a standard gripper fondly called “Shipley,” to show the audience how it works and some were even invited to have a chance to program the robot and learn first hand.

“Introducing this technology to the CNMI empowers you to write your own history as we don’t have to copy or play catch up with neighboring territories or the U.S. mainland. We are really trying to innovate and not imitate,” he said.

“This kind of technology is still high level but the goal is to show everyone what is actually happening because most people don’t have any clue how fast it is happening out there and where we actually are,” he added.

According to McElligot, the robots that they are building are called “collaborative robots,” they are safe to be around and easy to program.

“These aren’t like power drills because when you add intelligence to something it’s a very different ‘animal.’”

“We are glad that there are kids here at the summit because this generation grew up watching Ironman and Avengers so they could be the super hero generation where they understand to use technology but have to use it for good,” he added.

CDA office manager Oscar Camacho said ultimately, the people will be the ones who will drive technology into the island.

“If there are enough people out there that will direct the CDA to go in this direction (robotics), the board, the administration are here to listen. It is the people who would command and direct this agency to go into that direction,” he said

“All that we are trying to do is to provide opportunities and give everybody a chance to see and feel what is really out there,” he added.

McElligot together with York Exponential vice president Dave Rixter and Commerce and CDA representatives will be in Kagman High School at 9am and at Grace Christian Academy at 1pm today to talk to children and do robotic demonstrations.

Bea Cabrera
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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