Learning to Compete

Executives involved in outsourcing U.S. jobs should also become involved in sponsoring CA schools

Micah Liebowitz, for instance, is 25. He doesn't have a job beyond selling gadgets on eBay. And he's taking classes in a department, and at a school, that nobody seems to have much respect for. I myself took welding classes at Laney College a couple of years ago. I can tell you, from personal experience, that the magnificent, Gov. Pat Brown-era facilities have been subjected to such neglect in recent years that they produce a sensation of working in Pompeii.

Liebowitz says some things have gotten better recently at Laney. The machine shop has two part-time instructors who have a lot of energy; "the old instructor was all doom and gloom," he says. But the shop is still always running out of things such as "bits, blades, any sort of consumables," he says.

Liebowitz got interested in battle robots in high school, and he's been perfecting his machines ever since. A couple of weeks ago, he attended an event where he met builders from Japan, Spain, and China. The contest at Moscone offered even more exciting potential for idea-sharing, Liebowitz says.

"These chip-heads have a lot in common with what we do," Liebowitz says, motioning toward a mini-grandstand packed with rapt, pocket-protector types. "The next step is to integrate the chips into the robots and take the remote control away, and they can run themselves."

"First I'd like to sell components at events. Then target the hobby market. Perhaps we could go after the market for experimental commercial robots, too," he says.

Heading back across the Moscone exhibition floor, through the forest of nonsense-name tech banners, I imagine Liebowitz doing quite well for himself. It's the rest of California I worry about.

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