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Bricklaying robot works at Clayton Elementary

First machine of its kind to work in Colorado helps construct new building

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It wasn't science fiction when a construction crew worked alongside a robot at Clayton Elementary School — a bricklaying machine, known as “SAM,” is now a regular on the project to construct a new building at the school.

The semi-automated mason, whose full name is SAM100, is first robot of its kind to work in Colorado on a real construction project, according to project officials and workers. Developed by New York-based company Construction Robotics, SAM100 first worked on a job in Virginia in 2014. Now, there are 10 SAM100s in the country, including the one working in Englewood.

The machine started out in January at the site, where workers with Fransen Pittman General Contractors and Berich Masonry do their jobs alongside SAM. They can track its progress on a tablet, and it can lay brick faster than the average human's few hundred per day.

On Feb. 27, construction workers showed the machine off to reporters, and after about two hours in mid-morning, SAM had already laid more than 600 bricks.

But Zachary Podkaminer, a director with Construction Robotics, said it's not about efficiency.

“It's really about the worker,” Podkaminer said. “There's a shortage of skilled workers, less and less bricklayers joining the trade. The younger generation, they don't want to do it. SAM didn't replace anybody.”

It makes the job easier on other masons, Podkaminer said.

“If (an older worker) can buy another two or three years, that's huge,” he added.

SAM is in Colorado because of the state's abundant construction needs, Podkaminer said.

Englewood is rebuilding its four elementary schools and its early childhood education center, and began construction on Clayton Elementary and Charles Hay World School in summer 2017. Englewood passed a bond in 2016 that set up construction for the elementaries and its preschool.

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