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UA Sophomore Leading the Robotics Revolution

Canon Reeves

by Colton Faull

At age 20, Canon Reeves already has an impressive resume. The sophomore at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is leading two projects at the school’s McMillon Innovation Studio, and he’s the founder of three companies – MORE technologies, ArkanCode and Lovelace Technologies.

“I don’t know when he sleeps,” says Danny Allred, program director of the McMillon Innovation studio. Allred has known Cannon since October of 2017 and has helped Reeves with some of his ideas. “When he gets on something, he just goes after it.”

MORE Technologies (which stands for Modular Open-source Robotics Ecosystem), formerly Mod-Bot, was founded after Reeves’ team won the Northwest Arkasnsas Startup Weekend competition last month. “At MORE, we’re trying to make robotics accessible,” Reeves explains.

Reeves has five years of building robotics under his belt. He got his start at Riverview High School in Searcy, where he grew up, after joining the robotics team. In his junior year of high school, Reeves transferred to the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs. “That’s kind of where I really started learning more in depth how to create my own robots,” he says. “When I got started in high school, it really changed my life and career path.”

A robot built by Reeves, using 3D printed materials.

With MORE, Reeves would like to give other kids that same life-changing experience by developing a robot kit anyone can pick up. “Right now, a relatively small percentage in Arkansas, let alone the U.S., are getting to experience robotics in a way that I did,” he says. “So with that, we made a robot that can be made entirely out of parts from Walmart or parts that you can 3D print.”

Reeves believes this will allow children to learn actual tech concepts he uses every day at work and allow them to learn it in a context that makes it a lot easier.

“Certainly, the little educational robot for MORE tech is really, I just think, innovative,” says Allred. “It’s taking very mundane looking parts and building a robot around them. It’s really economical, and I think it’s really good for children trying to learn something because it’s something they can relate to.”

While a study conducted by Pew Research in 2017 found “more than 70% of U.S. fears robots taking over” their lives, Reeves doesn’t see it that way. He believes automation will free people up from a lot of menial tasks and allow them to explore more interesting projects. “I think the arts has a huge place to play in society, and automating certain tasks allows more people to explore those areas. I also just think it’s a huge ability to help people.”

Reeves also thinks “robotics, in general, is shifting towards supplementing human labor instead of replacing it.” He says, “I think it will be really exciting to see the way that robots will help us work better and help us achieve more, rather than just replacing us.”

After graduation, Reeves thinks he will stay in Fayetteville because he sees an opportunity to help the region. “Originally, I just wanted to go to school here then go live in Colorado or Silicon Valley, something like that,” he explains. “But I see the potential in the area.”

Danny Allred, who spent the past 20 years in Austin, Texas working in the startup scene, also sees the potential in the area. “The university pumps out a lot of talent. So it’s got all of the right ingredients. But obviously, the area is not known for being a technology startup hub just yet.”

A robot built by Reeves.

Reeves says, from an entrepreneurship perspective, the university is great in that it creates a lot of IP and a lot of research. “I think what we’re going to see more and more going on, especially with the MBA program up here, is people commercializing IP that’s generated out of the research,” he says. “It’s an interesting place to be, and seeing the environment and ecosystem here around tech and entrepreneurship has convinced me that I want to stay up here.”

Reflecting on the young entrepreneur’s work ethic, Allred compliments Reeves abilities, saying, “It’s unusual to find somebody who’s already as good at the practical side of engineering as he is, being that he’s a sophomore in college. Normally it takes longer to develop that skill set. But he’s a natural.”

 

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