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Obama Touts Innovation at CMU's Robotics Institute

President rolls out $500 million public-private initiative to spur technological advancements.

President Barack Obama visited Pittsburgh this morning to announce a new initiative between universities, businesses and the federal government to enhance research and technological development.

Obama toured the Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center to learn more about upcoming technology and how it can spur economic growth in America.

The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership would funnel $500 million to launch the public-private research initiative. Obama said he hoped it would bring new inventions from the drawing board to the market place faster.

“We have not run out of stuff to make,” he said. “We just need to re-invigorate our manufacturing (sector).”

Before speaking, Obama toured the university’s robotics institute located in an old warehouse in Lawrenceville, where he learned more about robotic technology that ranges from military uses to sewer inspections. Obama was especially impressed with a computer simulation developed by Procter & Gamble that would help small manufacturers that normally would not be able to afford such a system.

He also pointed to RedZone Robotics, a spinoff company from CMU, that developed a robot to inspect major sewer pipelines.

“They become products made right here in America and, in many cases, are sold all over the world,” Obama said. “That’s who we are. We’re investors, makers and doers.”

Pradeep Khosla, the dean of CMU’s College of Engineering, said he was impressed by Obama’s ability during the tour to understand the intricate details of the technology and ask pointed questions.

“He was totally on top of the technology that takes us years to develop,” Khosla said. “His questions were very specific to the impact of this technology.”

Khosla pointed to difficult times in the 1980s where the university joined in a public-private partnership spur innovation. He thinks this new initiative will also be fruitful.

Situated in the warehouse portion of the CMU facility, Obama spoke while surrounded by robots that can perform a range of tasks. He praised Carnegie Mellon’s innovation and said Pittsburgh has set an example on how to rebuild from a broken economy.

“We’re America, and we don’t just keep up with changing times. We set the pace for changing times,” Obama said.

After his speech, Obama spent a few minutes shaking hands with CMU officials and business leaders before departing. Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, state Attorney General Jack Wagner, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and county Executive Dan Onorato.

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