Robot Monday: Farmer Wu — Peasant, Farmer, Robot Inventor — Goes To The Shanghai Expo
Wu Yulu’s “children” are made of rubbish.
Wu, a peasant farmer from a small village near Beijing, started making robots at the age of 11. Since then, he has constructed 47 of them, all from junk salvaged from the local junk yards.
Start reading up on Mr. Wu, and the biggest character that emerges is neither Wu nor his robots. It’s his long-suffering wife, who has—amazingly—put up with her husband’s tinkering for decades. From a 2004 article in China Pictorial:
His wife, Dong Shuyan, standing in a yard littered with scraps and rusted skeletons of neglected inventions as her two teen-age sons help their father, said she hoped that this time Wu would find a way to start repaying the family’s debt, a figure that has risen past 20,000 yuan. They had to borrow money from their neighbors and the local government to build the walker. That loan was added to the money they’d had to borrow after an electrical fire that started with one of Wu’s inventions burned down their house and almost everything in it.
She seems to have softened in recent years, however. From the Daily Telegraph:
“He won my heart one summer when he built me an electrical fan, when everyone else had to fan themselves with banana leaves in the summer sun. He is not a man given to sweet words and affection, but instead he builds things to please me. He once made me a kitchen helper, to wash and wipe the plates. Of course it was not as neat as a human, but it did cheer me up in the kitchen,” she said.