Montana is considered to be deep in the heart of "flyover country". You know, that part of the United States that people traveling back and forth to the East and West coasts look down at from a curved window at 35,000 feet and wonder if anyone really lives there. Those people don’t think of Montana as a high tech state.
But they would be wrong! Montana, Bozeman, Montana in this case, settled between the Bridger Mountains and the Tobacco Root Mountains in the southeast part of the state and home of the University of Montana, boasts one of the most formidably competitive robots in this or any country. I’m talking about LOONEY, winner of six medals in the recent (2013) RoboGames in San Francisco. Oh, and he was winner of new fewer than five medals in the previous games, 2012 .
LOONEY, like many famous Americans, is an immigrant. He --or she, if you prefer--was designed and built as a NAO robot by the French robotics company Aldebaran. The generic NAO is known worldwide as the robot best suited for serving in a technical learning capacity in educational institutions from elementary schools to… graduate schools of engineering. LOONEY’s trainer --or programmer, if you please--is American born and bred Hunter Lloyd, professor of robotics at the University of Montana. LOONEY isn’t just a medal winning robot jock! He is also a very entertaining robot as shown in several YouTube Videos. He is a people pleaser and wonderful salesman for robotic science.
The tech business is booming in Montana. In 2012 Montana tech firms hired more than 400 computer science graduates alone. Interestingly enough though, most of those positions were filled from outside Montana. In that same year there were only 44 degrees in computer science conferred by the state’s universities. This in spite of LOONEY’s fame and Professor Lloyd’s proven competence.
Why do you suppose Montana is producing so few computer scientists? LOONEY is obviously doing his part. Is it possible that in spite of Professor Lloyd’s attempts to spread the STEM learning gospel, the state is underfunding STEM learning positions in the schools? We hope not.