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In Pittsburgh, Robots Help Rebuild Struggling Economy

As Pittsburgh continues to rebuild itself after the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the 1980s, a technology industry is emerging. Tom Bearden reports on how engineers in the city are developing robots for everything from elderly care to military operations.

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    Now, a different kind of story about Pittsburgh. For the past two nights, we've looked at how the changing economic picture there has affected the voters.

    Tonight, Tom Bearden of the NewsHour's Science Unit reports on a new industry developing in and around our spotlight city.

  • TOM BEARDEN, NewsHour Correspondent:

    For the Stemmler family of western Pennsylvania, the future is now.

  • JOHN BERTOTY, Blueroof Technologies:

    The big eye is actually an I.P. camera, Internet protocol. And what that does is take a picture of everybody that comes up on the porch.

    Come on in. And…

  • ROBOT:

    Front door open.


    After decades of struggling with disabilities, the family is preparing to move into a home that promises to make their lives much easier.

  • ROBOT:

    Burglar alarm off.


    D.J. Stemmler has spinal cord injuries. Her son, Sergei, has cerebral palsy.


    We've taken the house and used technology systems to make the whole house into a robot. It senses things that robots do. It reacts to those inputs that it receives. It chooses some type of action, whether that's turning lights on or off, or turning the water off, or calling the police, or whatever it's doing, and that's really what robots do.


    The Stemmler's new home is in McKeesport, a town decimated by the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. Forty thousand jobs evaporated. Most of the laid-off workers moved away.

    It left McKeesport with one of the nation's most elderly populations. John Bertoty says that makes this the perfect spot for his company, Blueroof Technologies, to build new robotic homes that can take care of the elderly and disabled.


    Say your mom gets up at night and we need to know that. Well, this is a system that will determine that.