(Written by Tyler Cronsilver)
Hard to believe that we are already halfway through 2019, and almost at 2020. And with a new year comes new advancements in technology. Often, we think about jumps in tech when it comes to phones or gaming systems or even cars, but maybe what you haven’t thought about recently is the technology in other industries such as log building.
Here in Merritt is Nicola Valley LogWorks (NVL), who just two years ago partnered with a Swedish software company, Ballmer Systems, when they heard about Abby, a fully functioning log building robot. Abby belongs to NVL, and with the help of Ballmer Systems were able to bring Abby to the forefront of the industry. You might think that the name Abby stands for something like Q101 initially did, but John Boys, the President of NVL explains it is much simpler.
“Abby was made by a company called ABB, which is the largest producer of robots in the world. They’re a Swiss-Swedish company. She was obviously female, and wants shiny new toys all the time, so Abby just seemed like a natural fit,” John joked.
Abby will be working hard at building the outdoor education classroom located at Collettville Elementary, here in Merritt, and will aid in the construction and safety of the structure throughout the building of the project.
They have currently had Abby two years now.
“It started back in 2008. I went to an international Log Building Association conference and I met a Swiss software engineer from a company called Ballmer Systems, who had this idea about log building, and thought that he could use robotics to do it, and he was looking for a new partner. 2008 was not a good time to be launching a new house building venture. The markets had completely collapsed, but we stayed in touch and then two years ago, we felt it had developed to a point that we thought we could take it from concept to full execution, and we’re close,” stated John.
Although Abby was brand new technology to NVL, this was not the first time they had worked with a robot before.
“I’ve worked with a lot of CNC machines, some of which have some robotic ability. CNC and robots are a different concept. A lot of people think they’re the same thing, when they’re two distinct things. CNC stands for computer numerically controlled. A standard CNC machine in the woodworking industry would be a 3-axis router that’s on a table and cuts a sheet of plywood. It has a z-axis, an x-axis, and a y-axis and it works in those 3-axes. This is a 7-axis machine and it can reach around under, come to the ends of the pieces, and it can even amputate its own arm if it has the wrong tool on it.
As smart as the robot seems, it’s not going to be taking over the world any time soon.
“You have to be careful with the grabbing and the safety side of things. This machine is mostly being used in an industrial setting, manufacturing a car, with 4 of them lined up. It’s quite easy to train a robot to do one or two things, or more. But we are asking it to do hundreds of thousands of different things. Its able to pick up a variety of tools. It can on its own decide which tool it needs to use.”
Most people are probably wondering if this is the future of log building and technology. Q101 asked John if he saw this as the way of the future.
“Oh my god, yeah. The world is changing rapidly in so many ways. Robotics is a big part of it. Artificial Intelligence is a whole other part of it. But that’s something that we have no idea how that’s going to change the way we live or work, not all in positive ways. Utilizing robotics is such a critical part of it. They are very flexible tools but they’re hard to program. You can’t just buy this with an off the shelf software. You must develop it, code it. That’s the challenge right there.
Although robots are very smart and intelligent, John explains that they can only do as much as the human operating it knows.
“Some of the best companies out there are not using robots. They’re using dedicated machines to cut their material. A robot is a very adaptable tool that can do almost anything if you understand how to operate it. It can do nothing until you understand it.”
John explained, “For us, when we decided to launch into this venture, we sat down with our crew with us. Some of them almost 30 years and talked about with them if this was something we wanted to do, if we wanted to be partners in this venture. The reality of it is we are probably close to the average age of 50, then 20, and I can’t ask my guys to spend nine hours a day running a chainsaw anymore. They will need to go to a chiropractor. They will need the hot tub, or the sauna. Traditional log building wears you out and beats you up, and its hard to make a good living at it. So, this is a way for us to leverage the knowledge that we’ve gained over almost 40 years of log building.”
NVL explained the reasoning behind adopting this new technology to use, rather than hiring a new body.
“Here at Nicola Log works, we’ve embraced the technology, decided it was smarter for us to take a log builder, working ten years and train him to run a robot, rather than hire a robot technician and train him with log building. There are several reasons for that. The amount of knowledge required to be a good log builder and really understand what it takes, takes years and years of training. That and they’ve already demonstrated they’re a key employee, and we just felt much further ahead investing in their training. The key for industry and people is you need to commit yourself to lifelong learning. You need to take responsibility constantly upgrading your knowledge and be ready for what’s coming at you, or you will be left behind.”
For more on Nicola Logworks and Abby the Robot, visit their website at www.logworks.ca.
For video of Abby, check out www.ballmer.ca (The brains behind the robotics of Abby)
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
RCMP officers in Merritt are investigating a man’s death after being called to a residence yesterday afternoon.
On May 9, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. Merritt RCMP officers were called to a residence in the 2200-block of Blair Street for a report of a sudden death.
The identity of the deceased will not be confirmed pending an investigative need to do so.
A 55-year-old man was arrested at the scene and remains in police custody.
Staff Sergeant Lorne Wood, Merritt RCMP Detachment Commander states,
Investigators from the Southeast District Major Crime Unit have been called to assist us. Currently we are in the process of speaking to witnesses and gathering evidence. We are asking anyone who may have information about this incident and have not already spoken to police, to call the Southeast District Major Crime tip-line at 1-877-987-8477.
Q101 spoke with Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, District Advisory NCO (Media Relations), and she did confirm that the suspect and deceased were known to each other and that the deceased was 43 years old.
“The incident is believed to be targeted and isolated, we don’t believe the general public is at risk at all,” said Sgt. Shoihet.
More to come
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
(Six local paramedics honoured on Thursday)
Every weekend Q101 will revisit the most talked about stories of the week in Merritt and bring them to you all in one place. As well as my personal favourite story of the week.
This week the city was buzzing about the fate of the gravel pit delegation, a group of local heroes being honoured, and the grand opening of Merritt’s first brew pub.
Three weeks ago, Merritt City Council approved a motion to send a delegation to the Ministry of Mines in opposition to the proposed gravel pit just outside of city limits.
Two weeks ago, Merritt City Council and Mayor Linda Brown apologized for jumping the gun on the decision and invited Nicola Valley Aggregates to present their side of the story.
Last night the saga came to an end with a reconsideration motion on the table.
BC Ambulance Honour 6 Local Heroes
Back in February of 2018 a deadly crash along the Coquihalla between Hope and Merritt required 80 paramedics to respond. Of those 80, six where based locally out of the Merritt detachment.
There was no ribbon cutting, no cake, no grand ceremony what so ever. Instead Kyle Hall, co-owner of Empty Keg, simply opened the doors at 1pm yesterday and ushered in a new era in Merritt.
Empty Keg fills a vacancy in the market as it becomes Merritt’s first craft brew house.
My personal favourite story of the week was;
To mark this important milestone in Canadian history and honour the fallen, the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s only Second World War museum located on Juno Beach itself, is sending personalized postcards to the current residents of hundreds of homes across Canada linked to the soldiers who died.
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
The Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Education were created to recognize the enormous contributions of B.C.'s exceptional teachers, administrators and support staff that are vital to the cultural, economic and social well-being of the province. The Premier’s Awards provide students, parents, teachers and other members of the community with an opportunity to celebrate those who make a real difference in B.C. schools.
The Awards are presented annually to exceptional education professionals in British Columbia's school system working within either the public, independent or First Nations school systems.
Winners receive a $3,000 personal bursary for professional learning, and a $2,000 contribution to their school community for professional learning.
Here in School District 58 Nicola-Similkameen five teachers have been nominated for the awards.
SD-58 Superintendent Steve McNiven spoke to each of the nominees.
“Helping with our youngsters in coding and work around robotics.”
“Elementary school teacher at Nicola Canford and does wonderful work there. He’s been showcased around learning commons work as well as environmental work.”
“First Nations support teacher and language teacher. New to teaching that this year but inspiring us to learn the language.”
“You’ve seen her come forward out of Diamond Vale Elementary school with her innovative classroom furniture and classroom spaces.”
“Just an extremely solid science teacher at Merritt Secondary School and is also helping us in the area of well-being and wellness.”
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt
This year’s Merritt Country Run will be adding a new feature to the event designed for those who are looking to get healthy or stay active.
The 9th annual run scheduled for Sunday June 9th, will present a Health and Wellness Expo at the Merritt Civic Centre on Saturday June 8th.
Race coordinator Stacey Krajci said the committee opted to bring the Expo back, hoping to get both race participants and the public involved.
“This is going to be a great event,” said Krajci. “There are a lot of businesses out there that reflect health and wellness and we want to give them a stage to show their services.”
Krajci noted that they are still looking for exhibitors for the Expo.
“We have between 10 to 15 exhibitors right now but are always looking for more,” she added. “As long as it encompasses the health and wellness sector, we will glad to have that business join us.”
Those participating in the 9th annual Merritt Country Run will also be able to pick up their race packets at the Health and Wellness Expo.
Krajci added that anyone who has a business that deals the health or wellness or if anyone would like to volunteer for the Merritt Country Run can contact her at www.merrittcountryrun.ca
On Twitter: @Q101Merritt