CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — What does a robotics professor know about trimming trees?
If you ask Dugan Um of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, he'll tell you just enough to make a difference in his community.
“I kind of just picked (tree trimming) up in a way," he said. "So it’s kind of, you know, instinct."
But it's intellect instead of instinct that Um used to make the landscaping activity safer.
Relying on his 20 years of experience studying and making robots, Um and a visiting professor from South Korea designed a contraption that allows them to use an electric saw high in a tree from a safe distance away, allowing them to avoid cut branches falling from the tree.
With the right equipment, the professor duo then started a tree trimming service back in December.
They have some paying customers, but Um is also offering his services for free to people who've been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and/or the deep freeze in February.
"There are some people who are broken financially," Um said. "So we try to help them make this, you know, the society kind of beautiful."
Um's beautification on Tuesday took place at the Corpus Christi home of his neighbor Deborah Shaw.
He noticed the large tree in her yard badly needed trimming, so he knocked on her door recently and offered the service for free.
The timing couldn't have been better.
"Mind you we’d been putting (trimming the tree) off because of the COVID," Shaw said. "My husband is the only one financially working right now. I lost my job due to COVID. So it was a God-send."
And Um says what he's doing is something lots of people can do -- use what you're good at to improve the lives of others.
"There are so many things that you can do helping each other to recover from the COVID and all that cold storm stuff,” he said.