It's just a cold, hard fact of the Midwestern winter: Sooner or later, you're gonna shovel some snow.
But what if you could clear your driveway without leaving your living room?
Lincoln engineer Jimmy Bui has been thinking about an easier way to deal with snow for years. This winter, thought turned to action.
Bui built a robot snowblower.
"I created it to test an idea," he said. "Its main purpose is to help people, especially the unhealthy ones, during the bitter wintertime."
Bui - who, by the way, has the cleanest driveway in his neighborhood - completed his creation earlier this month after a few weeks of work in his garage.
The robot, called JNK, has "WALL-E" proportions. The bottom of an electric wheelchair serves as its base. Bui controls it (the robot's not sentient ... yet) with a remote control originally used for a toy airplane. The robot's antenna is propped up with a chopstick, and the motor is covered by a plastic cake dome purchased at Sam's Club.
After a few botched attempts at sticking a shovel on the robot, Bui attached a Honda HS35 snowblower to the front.
And it works. It works well, slowing down and speeding up, turning and stopping on a dime.
When Bui runs the robot from his living room, his invention obviously gets a few double-takes.
His mailman's confused.
Soon, he won't even have to look out his window. He's going to put a camera on the robot, which will feed the robot's view to his TV. It'll be like a video game, only with real-world effect, he said.
The convenience of the device aside, Bui said, his invention is about a lot more than blowing snow.
Twenty-plus years back, Bui almost died on a boat out of Vietnam. He arrived in Malaysia, where the United Nations helped him get to the U.S., he said.
"The United States opened their arms to me and gave me a new life in a free country," he said. "I owe some people."
The robot, he hopes, is a way of giving something back. If he perfects his invention and gets someone to invest in production, he'll donate money to a handful of charities, he said.
In the meantime, though, his robot's just helping him get through the winter. And its use won't end with the season.
Come spring, Bui's going to detach the snowblower. His robot will then learn to push a lawnmower.
Reach Micah Mertes at 473-7395 or mmertes @journalstar.com.