Honda’s humanoid robot makes a stop in Alabama

Honda’s humanoid robot makes a stop in Alabama
ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot, kicks a soccer ball in a demonstration at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama. (Honda)

Honda’s innovative humanoid robot, ASIMO, visited the automaker’s Talladega County plant this week, part of an effort to encourage STEM education among local students and celebrate the advanced technology found throughout the facility.

ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, was featured at the Honda Manufacturing of Alabama Family Open House on Sunday. The event drew more than 15,000 Honda employees, family members and friends.

During five 15-minute demonstrations, the robot climbed stairs, kicked a soccer ball, ran, hopped and danced.

“Of course, robots are intriguing to children, but ASIMO is particularly appealing because of its smaller size and the mobility that it exhibits,” said HMA spokesman Ted Pratt. “But we also hope that ASIMO will encourage and inspire students to learn more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics in their studies.”

ASIMO’s roots date to 1986, when Honda engineers set out to create a walking robot. Over the years, various models moved closer to the dream of designing a machine that can mimic human motions.

The latest version of ASIMO, which debuted in 2011, can run, kick a ball and go up and down stairs, as well as recognize faces and voices. Development continues, and Honda uses ASIMO as a teaching tool for students around the world.

While ASIMO is an example of Honda’s overall innovation, some of the technology behind it can be found inside the Lincoln plant.

During Sunday’s open house, guests toured the 3.7 million-square-foot factory, which is the sole production source of Honda’s Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV, Ridgeline pickup and Acura MDX luxury SUV.

On the tour, they saw welding robots bend, twist and zip through sample production cycles. During these demonstrations, the welding tips were not charged, eliminating the chance of sparks.

Visitors also got the chance to operate robots to toss basketballs into a hoop, thanks to a set-up by Honda Engineering-Alabama employees. The robots have the same design as the hundreds of robots in the plant’s welding, painting and assembly operations.

Other examples of innovation at the plant include a new automated engine assembly line, which opened last year.

“The pride that we all have in our jobs, in this facility and with this team was very evident by the smiles and enthusiasm that was shared by all who attended the event,” said HMA President Jeff Tomko. “Sunday was a special time for our family members and friends to share the pride we have in our Honda team and our company.”

Honda’s Alabama plant, which launched production on Nov. 14, 2001, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.

The plant recently launched mass production of the redesigned Ridgeline.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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