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Toyota to bring Partner Robot to HESTEC Community Day Sept. 29
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Specialist
381-2741
Posted: 08/14/2007
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Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. will join this year's Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Week Sept. 24-29 at The University of Texas-Pan American and bring its best musician – a 4 foot, 9 inch tall, 88-pound, trumpet-playing robot to excite students about the possibilities in the fields of science and technology.

Participating in their first HESTEC, Toyota will provide demonstrations of their very humanlike Partner Robot during Robotics Day, Thursday, Sept. 27 held for registered Rio Grande Valley GEAR UP students and during Community Day, Saturday, Sept. 29, open free to the entire community.


UTPA Image
- Toyota's Partner Robot
Toyota's Texas operation, Toyota Manufacturing, Texas, Inc., will also sponsor one of two networking socials for UTPA students and faculty during HESTEC. In addition, they will host a booth at the Student Career Expo, Friday, Sept. 29, where students and alumni can learn about the corporation's internship and career opportunities.

HESTEC is an annual, weeklong event developed six years ago by U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15) and UTPA to promote science literacy and interest students in pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

In a visit to UTPA July 30, four Toyota representatives were able to tour the campus and its facilities to prepare the logistics for the robot's HESTEC appearances and career day plans. Victor Vanov, external affairs specialist for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., said the HESTEC event was a perfect fit for Toyota to promote its current products and technology.

"Bringing it here offers a unique opportunity, drawing possibly 50,000 from the community – students, parents, grandparents. The scale here is just large enough for us," Vanov said.

The development of today's very humanoid robot, explained Vanov, stemmed from Toyota's early development work in the 1970's and 1980's of industrial robots for use in the automotive industry, where they are utilized in welding and painting processes. By early this decade, Toyota moved to developing the advanced robots combining industrial robot technologies with the latest control technologies used in automobiles. Commercialization of their use to provide personal and medical assistance, such as elderly care, to humans one day is underway. Additional uses in the automotive industry, such as lifting heavy objects, and other practical applications are also viable as the technology advances.

Debuting in the United States in 2006, Toyota's Partner Robot walks, gestures with the dexterity of human fingers and has artificial lips which replicate the vibration of humans, allowing it to play quite a repertoire of familiar melodies, such as "Moon River" and "When You Wish Upon a Star." Vanov indicated their robot is "on the road" quite a bit.


UTPA Image
Pictured at UTPA during a visit by Toyota representatives to plan the appearance of their Partner Robot at this year's HESTEC Sept. 24-29 are left to right Ricardo Ramirez, UTPA career placement specialist; Sandra Alcocer, HESTEC logistics coordinator; Elia A. Lerma, HESTEC corporate liaison; Victor Vanov, External Affairs specialist, and James Neilan, both with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.; and Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, associate dean, UTPA College of Science and Engineering.
"We will soon be taking it to the Kentucky State Fair for 10 days and also to the Youth Engineering and Science Expo in Detroit and at the national convention of the Future Farmers of America in Indianapolis," he said. "It is a great way to showcase our technology and educate the public that Toyota is more than just automobiles. We have other businesses and aspects to help society and robotics is one way we are doing that."

Toyota representative Steve Harper, assistant manager of human resources for Toyota Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. said that the newest facility in San Antonio, where Toyota manufactures Tundra full-size pickups, offers many career opportunities for university graduates not only in engineering but in business and other technology areas. He said they have hired three UTPA engineering graduates in their quality and manufacturing areas and have had at least five in cooperative internships.

"We just started our relationship with the school (UTPA) last fall and want to build on that relationship," he said.

Also visiting the campus were Toyota employees Akihiro Goto and James Neilan, both with with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc.

Yvette Padilla, UTPA director of Stewardship and Annual Giving, said she was excited to see that major corporations are now looking at UTPA students to strengthen their workforce.

"Companies are responding in an overwhelming manner to the needs of our University by providing scholarships, internships and coop opportunities to our students," she said.

Toyota is a Japanese multinational corporation and the world's largest automaker by revenue, production, sales and profit. In 1957, it established operations in North America, where it now manufactures the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Matrix, Sienna, Solara, Sequoia, Tacoma, Tundra and the Lexus RX 330. By 2008, Toyota will have the annual capacity to build about two million cars and trucks in 15 plants across North America. Toyota directly employs nearly 40,000 people in North America and its investment there is valued at more than $17.6 billion.

Details on the location and times of the Partner Robot's appearances at Community Day are still pending. For more information on 2007 HESTEC, log on to www.hestec.org.