...how to build robots that go to space?

Ever Wonder? / November 25, 2020
Photo of Matthew Frost, roboticist and cognizant engineer at NASA JPL.
Image attribution
Courtesy of Matthew Frost

For the last few episodes, we've been talking to robotics experts about everything from robot swarms to human-robot interactions. One thing all of these roboticists have in common is that they build robots that are used here on Earth. But that's not the only place robots can be useful.

Do you ever wonder how engineers build robots that go to space?

This past July, NASA launched Perseverance, its latest and most ambitious Mars rover. It was designed and built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, right here in the LA area, not far away from the Science Center.

To learn more about building space-ready robots, we talk to Matthew Frost, a roboticist and cognizant engineer at NASA JPL who is responsible for the robotic arm on the Perseverance rover. He also talks about some of his past projects that haven't left Earth yet—like robots for rock climbing or search-and-rescue—and how they compare to his space-faring creations.

Have a question you've been wondering about? Email the Ever Wonder? team to tell us what you'd like to hear in future episodes.

Subscribe to our show on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Google Podcasts. To see a full list of episodes, visit our show’s webpage.


Perry Roth-Johnson (00:06):

Hello! This is Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center. I'm Perry Roth-Johnson.

Perry Roth-Johnson (00:13):

For the past few episodes, we've been talking to robotics experts about everything from robot swarms to human-robot interactions. If you haven't already listened to those episodes, go check them out. Now, one thing all these roboticists have in common is that they build robots that are used right here on Earth. But that's not the only place robots can be useful. Do you ever wonder how engineers build robots that go to space? This past July, NASA launched Perseverance, its latest and most ambitious Mars rover. It was designed and built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, right here in the LA area, not far away from the Science Center. To learn more about building space-ready robots, I talked to Matthew Frost. He's a roboticist and cognizant engineer at NASA JPL who is responsible for the robotic arm on the Perseverance rover. We also talked about some of his past projects that haven't left Earth just yet—like robots for rock climbing or search-and-rescue—and how they compare to his space-faring creations.

Perry Roth-Johnson (01:19):

So Matthew Frost, you are a roboticist and cognizant engineer, uh, for the robotic arm and the Mars 2020 Rover at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Welcome to the show!

Matthew Frost (01:29):


Perry Roth-Johnson (01:29):

We're really excited to talk to someone, uh, who works on the Mars rover. We're big fans of it here at the Science Center, and I know you designed robots at JPL, which is probably most famous for making robots that go to space like the Perseverance rover that's supposed to land on Mars next February. Uh, congrats by the way. Um, but you also designed robots for extreme environments here on earth. You've worked on rock climbing robots, search and rescue robots. Um, so you're obviously like building lots of cool stuff have brought expertise in this field. Uh, but before we dig a little deeper, I just want to start with some basics. Uh, first of all, what is a cognizant engineer? And I understand that there's a, there's a nickname for them. And, and can you explain that?

Matthew Frost (02:14):

Yeah, that's true. Uh, cognizant engineers is basically a responsible engineer. You're, you're responsible for all aspects of the design build and test of a, of a subsystem. So for the robotic arm, that's, that's what I was in charge of designing the robotic arm, making sure it got tested properly and integrating it with the, with the Rover and the rest of the spacecraft. Uh, and the, and the nickname is "Cog E". That's what we call our ourselves, "Cog E's".

Perry Roth-Johnson (02:39):

Are you one of those people that we sometimes see wearing white bunny suits around the Mars rovers when you guys are putting it together?

Matthew Frost (02:46):

Uh, yes. That, yes, I am one of those people. Um, certainly when we did the integration to the, to the front of the Perseverance rover, I was down there. Um, funny story about that, I had a friend back when, um, back when MSL, the Curiosity rover was being built, who was also in a bunny suit down there. And there was a chat room associated with, with the, uh, with the live feed and he would sit on his computer and he'd type. And he'd say, see that guy sitting at the computer, I'm going to make him dance, watch this, and then get up and dance and all the people in the chat room were like, "No way, how did you do that?" And sit down and watch I'm going to do it again. No, but sometimes I am. I am the person in the buddy seat, uh, I text my wife before I go in there to see if she could, she get recognized me.

Perry Roth-Johnson (03:34):

Awesome. So, so as a Cog E, uh, when, when you're in there, uh you're what, what are you doing? You're like watching to make sure that the robot arm gets hooked up properly to the rest of the vehicle? Or what are you doing while you're down there?

Matthew Frost (03:46):

Yeah, the first time I went down there, that was exactly it. We were, we were, we were attaching the robotic arm to the front panel of the rover. Um, you know, Cog E's, are, we're the engineers, we're the designers, uh, we're the shepherds of the hardware. Uh, but we don't actually get to touch it very often. Uh, usually it's the technicians that get to do the touching job. Um, they're the hands they've got good hands. Right? So we, we follow the procedures that were written to, to install it and make sure everything goes, it goes well. And if anything funny happens, uh, we hit the stop button and say, hold on, let's, let's make sure this is right.

Perry Roth-Johnson (04:20):

So I want to talk, talk a little bit more specifically about, um, what the robot arm is supposed to do on Perseverance on Mars 2020 Rover. Like, can you give me a sense of the tools that it has, what its mission is, what it's supposed to do on Mars?

Matthew Frost (04:35):

Yeah, so the robotic arm, uh, it's, it's five degrees of freedom. That means it has five, five twisty joints. Um, at the end of the robotic arm is a turret. And on that turret, there are a number of instruments, uh, and there's a core. The core is basically a drill that allows us to, to drill into the marsh and surface, collect rock samples, and then take those samples and put them, we actually dock the robotic arm and the core with the front panel of the rover. And we can transfer, transfer those samples that the core has collected back into the rover, uh, and inside the rover. There's another system called the sample, uh, sample caching assembly that takes those samples and caches them, uh, for a later return mission to come and bring them back to earth. Uh, the arm also has on it, a number of science instruments, like a mass spectrometer that allows it to analyze rock surfaces. Um, it has different bits on the core, so it can, uh, there's there's bits that do that, do, uh, drilling and core samples. There's bits that do abrading so that you can, uh, examine the surface better. Uh there's even a gas dust removal tool that, that blows a, the blows, a little puff of gas off to, to clear off the dust after you've abraded.

Perry Roth-Johnson (05:48):

Oh, you really?

Matthew Frost (05:49):

Yeah. It's really cool. Yeah.

Perry Roth-Johnson (05:52):

Wow. So, okay. Normally you think of like, um, I don't know, maybe vacuum ticket to get the dust off, but you guys are doing the other thing you're blowing air at it. It's like the opposite of a dust buster.

Matthew Frost (06:03):

Yea it's hard to make a vacuum on, on Mars, Mars, Mars atmospheres about 1/100th the atmosphere on earth. So you could make a vacuum, but it wouldn't, it wouldn't work very well. So it's easier just to blow a puff of air on it. So we actually, there's a gas dust removal tool that carries a, a cylinder of, I think I'm not sure what gas it is. I think it might be a, I think it might be CO2. It could be, it could be nitrogen too. I'm not positive with the check my facts on that.

Perry Roth-Johnson (06:29):

Okay. So like, if it was CO2, it would kind of be like those, those cans that use the clean, your keyboards, like the dust that gets in between the keys and your keeper.

Matthew Frost (06:38):

That's pretty much what it is. Yeah. Yeah. So dust removal.

Perry Roth-Johnson (06:43):

I, I don't want to bury the lede though, because like the most exciting thing about this mission that distinguishes it from other ones is that you guys are trying to do sample return. You're trying to collect bits of rock, put it in a titanium tube that then gets stored in the belly of the rover.

Matthew Frost (06:57):

That's right. Yeah. Yeah.

Perry Roth-Johnson (06:59):

Is that the main difference between the robotic arm on Perseverance, uh, from the Curiosity rover MSL, uh, that, that went a few years earlier?

Matthew Frost (07:08):

Yeah. Uh, the Curiosity rover, uh, internally it was called MSL, which stands for the Mars Science Laboratory and it was essentially a rolling science laboratory. And it would collect samples and bring them into the, into the rover, where it would do science on them—uh, we call it in situ. Um, Curiosity's main difference, uh, or sorry. Uh, Perseverance's main difference is that—yeah we're collecting these samples. We're going to do a little bit of science on the surface using the turret-mounted instruments. Uh, but the main, the main crux of the mission is to, is to cache them for a later sample return mission. There's so much more science we can do once we get the samples back to Earth.

Perry Roth-Johnson (07:45):

Um, and like how long have you guys been, been working on this? Uh, before launch? It's like a multiple year project probably.

Matthew Frost (07:52):

Oh boy. Uh, I'd have to go back and check my emails, but I think I've been on this project for six years.

Perry Roth-Johnson (07:59):


Matthew Frost (08:00):

Yeah. A long time. It's been fun though.

Perry Roth-Johnson (08:01):

So it must've, it must've been, uh, especially wild at the end, uh, because I imagine you had to adjust your, your operations for the pandemic when, when it hit in, in March, right there at the tail end before you guys launched. Tell me a little bit about what that was like.

Matthew Frost (08:18):

NASA and JPL stepped up and did it and did a fantastic job, uh, keeping us safe. Um, I got in kind of towards, uh, let's see, I had, I had to go to Florida, uh, for what we call ATLO assembly, test, launch, operations, uh, and, and do the final stuff before we launch is to, is to stow the robotic arm and install its launch locks. So I had to go out for that, um, on the, on the trip there, I flew commercial, uh, you know, I wore, I wore a mask, uh, but I think things were good. We're still kind of iffy at that time. And so for the return trip, uh, NASA actually put us on a NASA jet. Uh, they have a small jet they use for research and development. Um, and it was really cool. So we got to, we got to fly out, um, from, uh, the space shuttle, uh, runway.

Perry Roth-Johnson (09:08):

Oh, wow. Really awesome. Super jealous about that. Well, you must be really excited for, for Perseverance and to arrive in February and, you know, fingers crossed that the mission is successful.

Matthew Frost (09:20):

Yeah. I'd say excited and still a little nervous. I don't think I'll be able to sleep really well at night until after we've done our force first core samples and feel good that everything's working properly. I know we did our job, right. But there's, there's always that, you know, that inkling in the back of your mind, like, Oh, I hope it all works right.

Perry Roth-Johnson (09:37):

Aside from your work, your robots going to space, how does your work compare to like spot the robotic dog that Boston Dynamics is making, or even the robots and Amazon has run around its warehouses, uh, to get all our packages for shipping.

Matthew Frost (09:53):

Yeah, that's a great question. Um, so designing a robot to go to space versus designing a robot to do things, uh, on earth as is, uh, they're, they're very different. Um, for one thing with, with space robotics, um, you have a finite amount of power that a spacecraft or a rover can generate, and you have to work within those power constraints. So for a robotic arm, um, there's two things that are important. One is how much torque, which is the twisting force that that arm can produce. And the other is speed, which is how fast it can move. Well, the math behind it is speed times torque equals power. So if you have a set amount of power available, um, your, your speed and torque then are, are basically related by that. So for, for Mars rovers, for example, we, we need a lot of torque in order to do our job, but we don't really care too much about the speed.

Matthew Frost (10:49):

So we make that trade where the arm moves relatively slowly. If you saw it moving on earth, you'd say, boy, why is it going so slow? But on Mars is, it doesn't really matter if it takes five minutes for it to unstow and reach a science target on the workspace, um, that, that could, that could put somebody to sleep if it was an Earth robot. Uh, so we make those kinds of trades. The other thing that's really important is the reliability. Uh, there's no service center up on Mars to, to fix a broken robot. Uh, you can't send humans there to yet, uh, to fix it. So we have to make them, we have to make them super reliable. So that's one of the things we do is, is make them extremely reliable. We also test them in the relative environment. So we test them in them in a simulated Martian environment. So we put them in thermal factory chambers where we get them down to Mars pressures, and we take them to all kinds of temporary, should temperature, extremes, hot and cold to make sure they work and they'll survive on the lunar, uh, the Martian surface.

Perry Roth-Johnson (11:48):

So switching gears a little bit, I want to talk about some of your robots that don't go to space, but at least for now, um, are, are staying here on Earth. You worked on this, this rock climbing robot that uses something called a microspine gripper.

Matthew Frost (12:03):

That's right.

Perry Roth-Johnson (12:04):

First of all, like before we get into what a microspine gripper is, like, why work on a rock climbing robot like this?

Matthew Frost (12:11):

Yeah, that's a great question. So, uh, if you talk to talk to scientists, the, the really interesting places to go are around the cliff faces. Uh, so for example, you know, you can see the stratification of soil, and as you go down layers, you go down thousands and thousands of years. So for looking at it, looking at a cliff, um, and, and actually having a robot that could climb a cliff and go up and down a cliff wall, uh, is very appealing because you can go back, you know, millennia, uh, just, just in a couple of feet. So designing a robot to do that. It seemed to like, uh, like a wonderful way to help explore, uh, Mars and other areas. Uh, but we wanted to test the technology out on it's on earth. First. It's really new, new stuff. It came out of, uh, out of Stanford. Uh, Dr. Aaron Parness was, uh, was working on the technology and I helped him design the first microspine grippers that we used at JPL, uh, for this lemur lemur robot.

Perry Roth-Johnson (13:07):

So, so you're basically like trying to do a proof of concept, make sure it works on Earth before you stick it on a rocket and send it somewhere.

Matthew Frost (13:15):

Yeah, exactly. Right. We have what we call technology readiness levels. Uh, and so they start at, you know, technology readiness level or TRL level one, which is essentially an app napkin sketch. And they go all the way up to TRL nine, which is, Hey, it's been demonstrated in, in, in flight and it works. So yes, we're trying to, we're trying to push that TRL up a little bit, uh, one step at a time.

Perry Roth-Johnson (13:36):

Okay. So like Mars 2020 Rover would have been TRL nine. Right. And this rock climbing robot would have been more on the lower end?

Matthew Frost (13:46):

Yeah. More on maybe on the three.

Perry Roth-Johnson (13:47):

Okay. Got it. Yes. A little bit, a little better than a napkin sketch. Maybe you can touch it. Um, we were kind of joking earlier, you know, you can't go to Home Depot on Mars, but to some extent, you know, there's not even really robot stores here on Earth. If you want to build something, you know, to crawl up a rock wall, you got to, uh, start somewhere. You got to find someone like Dr. Aaron Parness, you know, who has this design and then you develop it. Um, but, but like, talk to me a little bit about like, when all you have is, is an idea and you don't have a store that has the ready-made parts for you to like to buy off the shelf. How do you start to develop that idea into something that you can build and test? How do you even approach that when it's like this one-off thing?

Matthew Frost (14:35):

Right. Uh, that's a good question, too. So we knew what we wanted to do. We wanted it to have microspines that you could drag along the rock surface, and we wanted those spines to be on sort of independent suspensions so that they could naturally find, uh, the asperities in the rock. Uh, asperities is just a fancy word for cracks and crevices and little holes. So imagine dragging a cat's paw along the surface of a rock and the claws digging into little holes, uh, on the rock surface. Uh, so the first thing we did was we needed to, we needed to look for some sort of some, some sort of spines to you. So, and we, we found fishhooks. Uh, I can't remember what number they were with a very, very small fishhooks. And I remember, I remember when we placed the order for the fishhooks, the store probably freaked out. Cause we were like, yeah, we need 10,000, 10,000 of your smallest fishhooks.

Perry Roth-Johnson (15:25):

Like the biggest order they've ever gotten probably.

Matthew Frost (15:28):

Somebody is going to go fishing. Um, anyway, so they got, yeah, so we got a lot of these fishhooks. Um, we, we actually employed a kind of unique, uh, new manufacturing process where we, we used a, a CNC, which is a normal, uh, computer numerically controlled milling machine to cut into wax blocks. And then the wax blocks were basically molds and we'd put the fishhooks in the molds and then we'd pour different types of urethane. So a hard year thing would cast, uh, around the fishhook and hold it nice and stiff. And they would cast a softer urethane that was stretchy and would act like the spring. Like I said, to be the suspension that as you drag the hooks along the surface, uh, they could catch at different points. So that's how, that's how we made the first microspine grippers.

Perry Roth-Johnson (16:17):

Okay. Um, and as I understand it, there's, there's kind of like, like you were alluding to multiple levels, like you have the hooks that are kind of like almost fingernails that are catching on, on the rocks, up to the urethane. Uh, that's holding it into like these fingers and these fingers are also arranged in like a circle of circular claw. And then there's like springs that pull all the, all the fingers together, like walk me through the different levels of this thing. Cause it's, it's kind of like inception.

Matthew Frost (16:47):

It kind of is. Yeah. Yeah. I feel like I need to double check my numbers to get them right. It's been a while since I worked on it, but yes, at the lowest level you have a fish hook, uh, embedded in a cast urethane. And then you put, I don't know, say 50 of them together into what I might call a cartridge. Um, and then that cartridges, like the paw of the hand, and then you, and then you string together 20 different hands. Um, so when you're all said and done, you could have thousands of these fish hooks, um, and you just need, you know, I dunno 10% of them to get a good grip on the rock. I mean, really? Yeah. You don't need all of them. Yeah. Yes. So basically we drag them across the surface. They, they pull in towards each other and, and, and, and, and hook on. Um, and then we have a, a method to release them as well. We can release the load and they can, they can let go.

Perry Roth-Johnson (17:39):

Okay. So, so if you have like say three or four of these, these grippers kind of attached to a centralized body or something like that, you could have one grip, another one release, move grip again. That's how you climb up the rock face. Yeah, exactly. Just curious, like what, was there a desire to put this on a future space mission? Uh, would it go to Mars? Would it go to somewhere else?

Matthew Frost (18:02):

Uh, actually, yeah there was a lot of interest in using this technology for, uh, an asteroid return mission. There was actually a mission to go and pluck a rock off of an asteroid and bring it back. Um, unfortunately that one didn't make it past the selection phase at NASA, but, uh, we'll, we'll probably try again sometime. And it was a really neat, a neat concept.

Perry Roth-Johnson (18:23):

Okay. I want to switch gears again, um, to another Earth-based robot, uh, that I know you've worked on called RoboSimian. Uh, what, what does simian mean? First of all.

Matthew Frost (18:35):

Simian. Uh, we like to use fancy words at JPL, fancy words and acronyms, uh, simian. I almost feel like you need to give us simian means ape, uh, ape like. Uh, so RoboSimian is a, is a robotic ape. And tell me what this thing looks like. Okay. Yeah. I, uh, well, I like to think it looks like a cuddly, robotic panda, although maybe it's not so cuddly because it's a metallic and it doesn't have any fur, uh, but it is the, the limbs are black. Uh, they have kind of, um, macaroni, macaroni, elbow shaped, uh, connections, uh, between the different joints. Uh, it's sort of black and silver looking in color. Uh, it has, it has cameras, uh, upon its head. Uh, what doesn't really have a head it's just kind of on the top of its body. It has cameras, it uses for stereo perception. Um, it was designed as, as part of a response to the DARPA robotics challenge. Um, and the DARPA robotics challenge came out of, uh, uh, as a response to the Fukushima power plant disaster, where people went back and looked at the, that disaster and thought, you know, if we had a robot that could have gone in here, um, and just done a couple of simple tasks, like, uh, turn a few valves and pull a few levers, uh, a lot of this stuff could have been averted.

Perry Roth-Johnson (19:51):

Right. Cause it was a nuclear power plant, nuclear power plant, dangerous area for humans to go in to.

Matthew Frost (19:56):

Very dangerous area. Right. So, uh, the challenge was basically to build robots that could do these sorts of tasks, like drive a golf cart, uh, pick up hand tools like a saws all, and cut, cut a hole in some drywall, uh, put your hand through the hole in the drywall and turn a valve, uh, kind of, you know, tasks. It would be pretty easy for a human, but are actually relatively difficult for, for a robot. Um, and also be what I would call semi-autonomous. So for, for RoboSimian we gave a kind of high-level commands, like drive here, drive there. Uh, but we didn't tell it how to do the driving. It knew how to turn the steering wheel on its own. And, or for example, picking up a power tool we would kind of tell it in the graphical user interface, uh, called a gooey, uh, we kind of point to the tool. We wanted it to pick up and say, pick up tool and then it would grab it and then we'd say, okay, circle, and then it would cut a circle. Yeah, that was a very fun, that was a very fun project to work on.

Perry Roth-Johnson (20:55):

Um, as we're, we're, we're winding down in time here. Um, I just kind of have like a smorgasbord of kind of lightning round fun questions. Okay. First of all, I'm just curious, like, how did you end up in robotics? Cause I think I was, I was flipping through your LinkedIn page and it said like, uh, you were, you were on the show BattleBots as a student?

Matthew Frost (21:14):

Oh, that's so embarrassing. Yes. Yes.

Perry Roth-Johnson (21:16):

Oh is it embarrassing? I think it's super cool. I used to watch the show.

Matthew Frost (21:19):

Yeah, yeah. We, well, when, when I was at, uh, when I was in college, would you say, like, we didn't have a robotics department actually now we do. We have a fantastic robotics department there. Um, there wasn't one. So I kind of, I tailored my classes to ride the line between controls, uh, and manufacturing. Um, and I made it a big point that I wanted to build robots while I was in college. And the, we had an SMB that's the American Society of Mechanical Engineering club. Uh, they were approached by BattleBots they wanted to build a robot and I was like, Oh, be me. Yes, let's go robots.

Perry Roth-Johnson (21:53):

So, uh, how did you guys do, did you make it through a few rounds? Did you make it all the way?

Matthew Frost (21:58):

Oh, we did tech. We did terribly, uh, we did. Okay. Uh, you know, it's the first robot I ever built. Um, we did, we did. All right. We, I think, I want to say we barely, we barely lost, uh, we were up against, uh, we were up against the team from Mattel, uh, and it was clear. They had a lot of money and resources and these were seasoned. These were seasoned engineers. Uh, they built a really beautiful robot. We built kind of a, a dump tank.

Perry Roth-Johnson (22:25):

But still it, it got you started, you don't just build robots. Um, you spent some time teaching too, like you have, uh, uh, how things work course, um, at a local college.

Matthew Frost (22:36):

It's really fun. I also teach at art center, uh, in my, in my copious free time. Uh, there's a class called yeah, it's called like you said it's called how things work. Uh, basically it's engineering for artists. So we've got a lot of, uh, artists, they've got great talent, uh, but they don't have a lot of engineering and physics and science skills. So I try to teach them the things about engineering to help them become better artists. And a lot of them are concept artists that are going to go and work in, in the film industry or in video games. So we talk a lot about things like, um, if you're designing an airplane, you know, you, you want to keep in mind where the center of gravity is, uh, where the center of lift is where the thrusts comes from. Um, otherwise they, they wind up designing things that, that engineers like myself or even science-minded people look at and say, ah, I don't think that can actually fly or what, when it topple over, if that happens. Um, so we focus on a lot of things like that. Um, we use a lot of engineering principles. I make them draw, draw, cross sections, uh, to show the layout. So the vehicles that they designed to make sure that that person isn't, uh, you know, isn't sitting on the engine, you know, stuff like that.

Perry Roth-Johnson (23:47):

And there's actually a empty space for their seat. Right.

Matthew Frost (23:49):

Right. Exactly. Yeah. It's, it brings more realism to their design and it's, it's really, it's really fun. It's quite a delight.

Perry Roth-Johnson (23:56):

What else are there any other stories you'd like to share? Anything, uh, any parting thoughts that you want people to know?

Matthew Frost (24:03):

Well, I, I don't know. I'd like to encourage, I guess, all the, all the young engineers out there or people, uh, that want to become engineers, you know, I didn't, I didn't actually know when I was a kid. I, um, I liked to play with LEGO® a lot, like, like, like a lot of engineers, but I didn't really, I didn't realize there was a job called engineering, um, until I got out of high school, um, I went to high school actually for arts. Oh yeah. I still love art. Um, but I, I kinda missed that. Uh, you know, I was the kid that took the toaster apart and love figuring out how things work. Uh, but I didn't realize I didn't realize engineering actually existed. So, um, I guess I would, I would encourage kids to learn about engineering. Cause it's fantastic. It's really fun.

Perry Roth-Johnson (24:51):

And it's a very creative enterprise too. Like there's, it's, it, it's sometimes characterized as being very distinct from art, but in a lot of ways there's similarities and overlap between the disciplines.

Matthew Frost (25:02):

Yeah. Certainly in the initial concept phases of, of designing something. Um, yeah, it's, it's all about, it's all about the flow of ideas. Uh, and then you, you know you use your creative mind to get as many ideas out there when you're brainstorming. Uh, and then you use your analytical mind to say, is that, is that even possible or is that possible? Uh, yeah, it uses both. That's great. Yeah.

Perry Roth-Johnson (25:28):

Can make prettier napkin sketches if you have artistic talent, but you still need to be creative to draw something on the napkin in the first box.

Matthew Frost (25:35):

Right. Or even, even just, I call it, I think the right term is ideaphoria? Which is like how, how fast the ideas can come to you, how quickly you can come up with new ideas and stuff. And, and you, you could come up with concepts for things that are, that are, um, that aren't maybe that great. But, uh, if you can come up with a hundred concepts, maybe, maybe one or two, and then we'll be good. Uh, so sometimes that flow of ideas, which, which I think art, helps to, um, to produce, uh, can be helpful in engineering as well.

Perry Roth-Johnson (26:06):

Well, Matthew, it's been a real pleasure and a treat to hang out with you. Thanks for, uh, walking us through your work on, on the robotic arm for the Mars Rover, uh, and, and some of the Earth robots, uh, that you've worked on. Uh, I hope more people take a look at RoboSimian and, and see the cuddly panda that you see.

Matthew Frost (26:28):

Right. It's not a scary spider it's a cuddly panda.

Perry Roth-Johnson (26:31):

Totally. Thanks Matthew for your time. All right. See ya.

Perry Roth-Johnson (26:36):

Well, that's our show and thanks for listening! Until next time, keep wondering. Ever Wonder? from the California Science Center is produced by me, Perry Roth-Johnson, along with Jennifer Castillo. Liz Roth-Johnson is our editor. Theme music provided by Michael Nickolas and Pond5. We'll drop new episodes every other Wednesday. If you're a fan of the show, be sure to subscribe and leave us a rating or review, or tell a friend about us. Now, our doors may be closed, but our mission to inspire science learning in everyone continues! We're working hard to provide free educational resources online while maintaining essential operations like on-site animal care and preparing for our reopening to the public. Join our mission by making a gift at californiasciencecenter.org/support.