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Meet The Robot Roadies For The Museum Of Science And Industry

By Sam Cholke | May 15, 2017 5:13am
 Three techs have traveled the country with "Robot Revolution" with 40 robots as their only friends.
MSI Robot Revolution Roadies
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HYDE PARK — It takes a lot of work to keep the Museum of Science and Industry’s robots running, and a Chicago Public Schools grad has had no complaints playing roadie to a bunch of robots as the exhibit has toured the country.

Much of Adrian Choy’s of Chinatown’s life is now packed away, with only the essentials in a suitcase as he travels as one of three technicians for the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Robot Revolution” exhibit.

“I have a storage unit in Pilsen, that’s home base,” Choy said Friday as “Robot Revolution” returns to the museum, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, for 10 months before shipping out again.

The exhibit brings together 40 advanced robots from more than nine countries that represent the cutting edge in robotics. But for as fancy as they are, they can’t change their own batteries. They can’t repair themselves.

That’s where Choy, graduate of Whitney Young High School, and two others come in, sitting patiently in Denver or Philadelphia behind a Plexiglas wall, watching and waiting for batteries to run down and gears to wear out.

“It’s almost equal parts engineering and showmanship,” Choy said as he swapped out the battery on somersaulting robot as little kids watched.

He said he’s now been to Philadelphia and Denver and can stay on as the exhibit continues to tour through 2020, but so far nothing’s beaten Chicago.

“It’s just a town full of mad scientists,” Choy said. “I’m still looking for a city that can impress me more than Chicago.”

For others on the crew, the travel has all been to get back here to Chicago.

“My dream was to get to Chicago and my dream is to stay here,” said Jason Dornbush, who said he always wanted to work at museum growing up in Iowa.

He said with at least six months in each city with only a suitcase, it’s been long enough to get to know a city and get attached to new friends, only to leave.

“That part is tough, telling them goodbye because you never sure you will be back in Philly or Denver again,” Dornbush said.

He said he and Choy are lucky that they all get along because their little crew has been the only consistently familiar face for the last 1½ years.

They don’t know where they’ll go next when the exhibit closes on Feb. 4 and ships out again.

Choy said he knows the city will change again, like it did when he first left in January 2016.

“The South Loop had changed completely by the time I came back,” Choy said.

He said he knows it will keep changing and that he’ll keep wanting to come home.

Jason Dornbush said the "Robot Revolution" tehnicians have gotten to know some other cities pretty well, but have also had to say a lot of goodbyes.

The techs' job is to keep all the robots running and they are the only ones to who stay with the exhibit as it travels around the country for four years.

The exhibit includes some complicated robots, like this one that plays blackjack.