After coming out of the gate hard and fast on day 1, my pint-sized, assistant robot builder seemed to have entirely lost interest in this kit. I can’t say as though I blame her. For an intellectually curious eight year-old with an attention span attenuated by Angry Birds, Youtube, and Kidz Bop, the monotony of preparing the parts for this robot kit must have seemed more like a punishment than the quality bonding time that I gratefully enjoyed it as.
With that in mind, I grabbed the diagonal cutters and my trusty wireless Dremel and dove headfirst back into cutting the myriad of connectors, axels, and other structural parts releasing them from plastic bondage. Truth be told, I probably didn’t have to spend as much time grinding off the remaining plastic nubs, but in an odd way the mindless and repetitiveness of the process was oddly satisfying. I guess I have my adult-onset OCD to thank for that.
On the other hand, I was reminded of a fall day about a decade ago when I had a chance to visit a world famous guitar factory in a nearby town where the guitars were all made by hand. At the time I had been playing the guitar for 12 or so years, and I loved the instrument much like I love robotics and programming today. I thought there could be nothing cooler than working in a guitar factory surrounded by the instrument you love all day long.
What I saw that day was depressing to me and changed my mind about that choice of vocation. Yes, the guitars they produced were phenomenal and their historical acclaim was well deserved, and yes, the luthiers really were making them by hand. But the process still resembled an assembly line. No one person worked on an instrument from start to finish. Each step from cutting out and assembling the bodies and necks, to sanding, staining, and finishing the wood, to stringing the instruments, to the final QA was handled by a separate individual.
It was as I was watching a young man, not unlike myself, cutting fret wire and hammering it into neck after beautiful rosewood neck, it occurred to me that I would find that job mind-numbingly boring. Stepping back, I realized that was my take on all of the jobs on the manufacturing floor. I loved the instrument, and what I could make it do. I still think that I might even enjoy the art and science that goes into designing them. It was, and still is, the act of creation and not the act of mass production that thrills me.
When that epiphany resurfaced today, I let my standards slack a little and the job went quicker. Of course, I want our robots to look good, but not at the expense of time that we could be building, refining, and tearing down to start again.
So I am done cutting out and sorting the pieces now.
On day 3, I, or hopefully both of us, will be assembling the gearbox. Look for me to share more then.
10/8/14 Update: The body is assembled.