Farmer dreaming of electric sheep

09:28, March 24, 2010      

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Villagers passing by are curious about farmer Wu Yulu's invention - a robot that pulls a rickshaw. Zou Hong / China Daily

Wang Ru reports on how a long-time hobby of making robots leads to a Shanghai World Expo opportunity

Wu Yulu is different from the other farmers at his village in the east suburbs of Beijing. He is the creator of 38 of 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 major 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.
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