The most robot-proof job of them all

By David Brancaccio and Katie Long April 10, 2017 |

Five years ago, Marketplace explored how machines, robots and software algorithms were increasingly entering the workforce in our series "Robots Ate My Job." Now, we're looking at what humans can do about it with a new journey to find robot-proof jobs.

The way the Trump administration sees it, the move to harden our borders is about national security and preserving jobs in the U.S. But moving forward, the real competition for work may come from machines, software and robots. Some jobs will be replaced, some jobs will be changed and some jobs will thrive.

Dave Rollinson is in that third category. Five years ago, Rollinson was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying snake robots used for search and rescue. Now he's a co-founder of HEBI Robotics, a startup that makes electronic building blocks that serve as the shoulder, elbow or knee of almost any robot someone might construct.

"We were kind of inspired by Lego," Rollinson said. "We want to get to the point where people can put these together as easily and intuitively as Lego." If HEBI can manage to do that, there could be a big payoff. But for now, his No. 1 worry is finding people with the right skills to hire. "You’ve whittled your set down to probably, like, a handful of people in the world that can really do what it is that you're trying to do," Rollinson said. "It's probably our No. 1 concern as we grow is just finding the right people."

Across town, at Rollinson's alma mater, they see it this way, too.

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