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SAM : one robot, a dozen engineers, and the race to revolutionize the way we build

by Waldman, Jonathan,

Format: Print Book 2020
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 2 copies
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
Brentwood Library Nonfiction 629.892 Waldman
Location  Brentwood Library
Collection  Nonfiction
Call Number  629.892 Waldman
Unavailable (1)
Location Collection Status
Penn Hills Library Non-Fiction CHECKED OUT
Location  Penn Hills Library
Collection  Non-Fiction
A true story of innovation, centered on a scrappy team of engineers--far from the Silicon Valley limelight--and their quest to achieve a surprisingly difficult technological feat: building a robot that can lay bricks.

Humans have landed men on the moon, programmed cars to drive themselves, and put the knowledge of our entire civilization in your back pocket. But no one--from MIT nerds to Army Corps engineers--has ever built a robot that can lay bricks as well as a mason. Unlike the controlled conditions of a factory line, where robots are now ubiquitous, no two construction sites are alike, and a day's work involves countless variables--bricks that range in size and quality, temperamental mortar mixes, uneven terrain, fickle weather, and moody foremen.

Twenty-five years ago, on a challenging construction job in Syracuse, architect Nate Podkaminer had a vision of a future full of efficient, automated machines that freed men from the repetitive, toilsome burden of laying bricks. (Bricklayers lift the equivalent of a Ford truck every few days.) Offhandedly, he mentioned the idea to his daughter's boyfriend, and after some inspired scheming, the architect and engineer--soon to be in-laws--cofounded a humble start-up called Construction Robotics. Working out of a small trailer, they recruited a boldly unconventional team of engineers to build the Semi-Automated Mason: SAM. In classic American tradition, a small, unlikely, and eccentric family-run start-up sought to reimagine the behemoth $1 trillion construction industry--the second biggest industry in America--in bootstrap fashion.

In the tradition of Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine , SAM unfolds as an engineering drama, full of trials and setbacks, heated showdowns between meticulous scientists and brash bricklayers (and their even more opinionated union), and hard-earned milestone achievements. Jonathan Waldman, acclaimed author of Rust , brings readers inside the world of the renegade company revolutionizing the most traditional trade.
Part I: Victor. The first brick ; The AM Project ; Dream machines ; An arm and a laser ; In the eyes of a bricklayer ; Approaching innovation ; The world's fastest ; Mortar Mike ; Refinement ; The team ; A stage to stand on ; The general
Part II: The real world. Vegas ; Laramie ; Lunenburg ; Washington ; Home ; Tennessee ; Seattle ; Double ; Wisconsin ; Desperation ; Mississippi ; Indianapolis

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "GM engineer Scott Peters and Nate Podkaminer, Peters' girlfriend's father, first discussed automated bricklaying in 2006. They believed that a semi-automated mason, or SAM, could completely change the construction industry, and assembled a team to make it happen. Peters and Podkaminer's company, Construction Robotics, spent a decade creating prototypes and measuring bricks laid per hour as they iterated toward a product they could run on job sites. Journalist Waldman (Rust, 2015) chronicles the start-up's progress, from a hint of an idea to a machine that lays over 1,000 bricks per day. Relating the history of Construction Robotics and SAM, Waldman illustrates the tension between innovation and tradition in a millennia-old profession. Even with a clear vision, Peters had to learn from failures on job sites while trying to convince masons to work with him to run the robot. Waldman's storytelling draws readers in, particularly through his use of color-adding footnotes that appear throughout the book. Readers interested in business and innovation will find a fascinating insider's view of a small, ambitious organization in SAM.--Laura Chanoux Copyright 2019 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Journalist Waldman (Rust: The Longest War) delivers a lively look at the team behind SAM, a "semi-automated mason" bricklaying machine designed to "revolutionize construction." Engineer Scott Peters and construction project manager Nate Podkaminer founded "Construction Robotics" in 2007 and, supported by a team of engineers, debuted SAM in 2013. Waldman has an eye for details that sum up character--of two mismatched company employees, he observes one, a conservative Republican, "listened to classic rock and didn't recycle"; the other, a liberal Democrat, "listened to podcasts and did"--and for dramatic end-of-chapter cliffhangers. He also provides enough background on the construction business, "the second biggest industry in America," yet one famously resistant to change, to help explain why SAM met stubborn resistance from the construction crews it was intended to help. Despite the sometimes dizzying proliferation of technical acronyms--for example, SAM's predecessors, ERMaS (Experimental Robotic Masonry System) and MAMA (Mechatronically Assisted Mason's Aide)--Waldman's storytelling remains engaging as he follows the team from building sites across the U.S. to the "World of Concrete" trade show in Las Vegas, then to an enticing but elusive opportunity in Dubai. This gripping story of a "scrappy little start-up" proves its author to be an industrious reporter and natural storyteller. (Jan.)"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Robots -- Design and construction.
Construction industry -- Automation.
Publisher New York :2020
Edition First Avid Reader Press hardcover edition.
Language English
Description ix, 267 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
ISBN 9781501140594
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