Farmer to present his robot invention at Expo
By Wang Ru
April 27, 2010, 12:24 am TWN
BEIJING, China Daily/Asia News Network -- Wu Yulu is different from the other farmers at his village in the east suburbs of Chinese capital Beijing. He is the creator of 38 hand-made robots.
His inventions include a robotic dog that runs and a robot that can water the farmland.
The 50-year-old farmer has now been invited to present his robots at the opening ceremony of the Shanghai World Expo.
Wearing a well-worn uniform stained with machine oil, Wu test the robots in his courtyard in Mawu village in Tongzhou district. The courtyard is littered with metal and machine parts.
Wu is hard at work on his most complex robot yet — one that can jump from a two-meter high platform and land on its feet like a man — "It will definitely surprise the audience," Wu said.
His son, a majoring in engineering at a college in Beijing, assists him.
Wu is a self-taught engineer. He never received any formal technical training, although he is proud that colleges and engineering professors now seek advice from him.
"I think producing machines is a talent I was born with," he said.
Born in a poor family, he did not have the opportunity to go to school. But even as a child, he knew he wanted to make machines. When he was eight, he made his first machine.
In 1976, Wu saw a TV program about a foreigner who made robots. Deeply fascinated, he was determined to make robots of his own. From that day on, despite thousands of failures, Wu never stopped researching and making robots.
Most of his creations were made out of items salvaged from garbage stations in the village.
When he met his wife Dong Shuyan in 1986, he did not win her heart with a bunch of roses or a diamond ring, but with an electric fan.
In 1987, his finally finished his first robot, a humanoid robot that could walk like a man. He named it "Wu No1."
"Every robot is like my child," he said. "They all have my surname."
He still remembers how sad he was after he sold one of his robots to finance other inventions.
Now, his "children" can jump, flip, climb walls and even play chess with him. His favorite is still the "Wu No 25,"the one that can pull a rickshaw best.
However, his experiments have not been without their hazards. The third finger of his left hand was damaged in 1989 when he mistook explosives for a battery.
And in 1999, his courtyard house was destroyed by fire when he forgot to turn off the voltage changer at night.
The fire and his long-time obsession with robots left Wu and his family with heavy debts and emotional scars. His wife wanted divorce. To save the marriage, he promised her he would never make machines again.
But old habits die hard. Wu couldn't stop making robots and continued behind his wife's back.
Fortunately in 2002, his robot No. 5 won the first prize of 10,000 yuan in the National Farmer Science and Technology Contest. Wu and his robots were on TV and his robot No. 5 was sold for 50,000 yuan, which convinced his wife there was a future for his robots. He has since won many awards as a "grass-roots robot inventor."
In 2003, Wu and his robots were invited to perform in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and in 2009, his robots were exhibited along with the Chinese Shenzhou spaceships.
Wu's latest dream is to invent robots that can help people in daily life, for instance, assisting the handicapped and looking after children. But his big dream is to have a robot factory.
"I feel I still need knowledge on computer science, but I believe in myself. I will always be a gifted farmer who can make robots," Wu said.