AROK, a 6-foot-8, 275-pound robot that was created just a few miles from Moraine Valley Community College, has returned home… sort of.
The creation by Ben Skora, of Palos Hills, who is now in an assisted-living facility, was delivered on Oct. 9 to Building T after making the journey from DeKalb, where he was temporarily stored by Tom Skora, a family member. The non-operating robot was “salvaged” by the family from Ben’s home before it was razed. Tom reached out to the college to see if it would be interested in providing a home for AROK, and Building T seemed like a natural fit.
AROK (Skora’s named spelled backwards without the S), when operational, could perform a variety of tasks such as vacuuming, mixing drinks, talking, taking photos, lifting up to 150 pounds, and walking the dog. It also could bend at the waist to a 45-degree angle and turn the upper torso to the right and left. He could “motor” along at a brisk 3 mph.
Ben Skora spent from 1969 to 1975 creating AROK using common, everyday parts. Inside the aluminum exterior, the robot has two 12-volt automobile batteries, 15 electronic motors, 35 relays, and hundreds of solid-state integrated circuits. He has a motorcycle helmet for a skull, a clothes-dryer exhaust hose for arms and rubber gloves for hands. There is a microphone in his control panel and a speaker in his head. It can be controlled by a TV remote using FM radio signals. One of the two 12-volt car batteries supplies power to operate AROK and the other to drive the motors. The batteries are placed on platforms in the feet and the drive mechanism in the base.
Skora is a renowned inventor and electronic genius—self-taught and a former owner of a recording studio. He often worked with spare parts obtained from junk yards and discarded by others. His former home in Palos Hills was an electronic fantasy with an electronic door that opened like the iris of an eye, revolving living room, and lights and waterfalls that were controlled remotely. His home included many creations, including a drivable motorized easy chair, a soap dispenser that was a retractable hand that came out of the wall on demand, dressers that slid away to reveal a hallway, and a ski slope to the roof. He has appeared in “People,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.” AROK is not his only invention; he created a remote control Ferrari.
AROK also became quite the TV celebrity appearing on the “Merv Griffin Show,” “Phil Donahue” and locally on the “Bozo” program on WGN-TV.