NEWSLETTER - February 2012


Arizona State University - Robots may be coming to the earth’s largest ecosystem, the ocean. Specifically, the ASU Biodesign Institute’sSensorbot project expands the scope of oceanographic investigations carried out by the Institute. They are leveraging their automation, sensors, biotechnology, and systems expertise to develop unique robots that can be deployed by the hundreds, travel information, and communicate together for exploration and discovery. The Sensorbots will enable continuous spatiotemporal monitoring of key elements in the ocean and the ability to respond to events such as underwater earthquakes and hydrothermal vents.

University of California, Berkeley - Leaping lizards! Dinosaur and Lizard Tails Inspire Robot Designers Biologists and engineers studied how lizards manage to leap successfully even when they slip and stumble. They found that lizards swing their tails upward to prevent them from pitching head-over-heels into a rock. In other words, placing tails on robots could make them more agile during search-and-rescue missions.

University of Southern California - The first USC Symposium on the Futures of Robotics took place in Los Angeles on December 7, 2011. Leading early-career scholars from across the country gave a series of exciting talks on emerging areas in robotics. There were excellent discussions during the day and evening, and USC robotics laboratory tours in the afternoon. Professor Henrik Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics, Distinguished Professor of Computing at Georgia Tech, and the founder and coordinator of the US Virtual Organization for Robotics, gave the keynote address. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems organized the symposium to strategize about next-generation robotics – a key component of the President’s directive to establish U.S. leadership advanced manufacturing as part of his AMP initiative.

Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Texas A&M - Can Japan Send in Robots To Fix Troubled Nuclear Reactors?IEEE Spectrum's reporter for the Robotics & Automation Society discusses ongoing coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency with Dennis Hong, a roboticist at Virginia Tech, Henrik Christensen, professor of robotics at Georgia Tech, Gerd Hirzinger, Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University, and Satoshi Tadakora, professor of robotics at Tohoku University and other experts to learn about the capabilities and challenges of using robots in nuclear disasters. It addresses “Why Japan can’t use robots to fix the damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant?”

Carnegie Mellon University –

Robot Field Testing Goes Virtual - Researchers from Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center are pioneering a new way to test autonomous unmanned systems: a virtual proving ground that uses recorded sensor data to simulate conditions in the field.  A $2.5 million award from the Department of Defense’s Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) underwrites this work. The virtual proving ground is a data-driven simulation of a robot’s operating environment. It feeds simulated perception, positioning, and vehicle dynamics into the robot’s autonomy system and responds to the system’s actions. In effect, it fools the autonomy system into thinking that the robot is moving around the test site.  The development team can then see how the system reacts under test conditions.

NREC Wins $1.5M Award for Artillery Range Cleanup Robot  The National Robotics Engineering Center (part of CMU’s Robotics Institute) landed a $1.5 million dollar contract to develop a semi-autonomous robot that clears metal debris and vegetation from artillery ranges. A modified, unmanned commercial excavator will use a powerful, magnetized scouring implement to safely sweep plants, pieces of ferrous metal (or clutter), and even unexploded ordnance into piles, preparing the area for remediation and eventual reuse. The system is expected to reduce clearance costs by 30% and lower the risk of injury to cleanup workers. The two-year demonstration project is funded by the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), an environmental technology demonstration and validation program run by the Department of Defense.


NREC Developing Stress Tests for Autonomy Software - Researchers are developing a toolkit for stress testing autonomy software.  Stress Tests for Autonomy Architectures (STAA) will push these systems beyond their limits, unearthing vulnerabilities that are impossible to find during traditional field tests. A $1.8 million award from the Department of Defense’s Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) underwrites this work.


Robotics Academy Jump Starts Youth Robotics Programs - Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy is joining forces with national youth organizations to promote educational robotics.  Through its Computer Science Social Network, CMU is helping the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, 4H, and the Boys and Girls Clubs to set up robotics programs.  The Robotics Academy provides curricula, web-based tools for learning, networking and support, and even robotics kits; the organizations do the rest. The goal is to get kids – particularly female and minority students – excited about computer science, science, technology, engineering and math.  The hands-on experience they’ll gain by building and programming their own tabletop robots will help them learn these crucial subjects.

New Robotics Merit Badge for Boy Scouts – CMU’s Robotics Academy and the Boy Scouts of America developed a new merit badge in Robotics.  To earn this badge, Scouts must understand how robots move, sense the environment, and make decisions. They’ll need to apply this knowledge to design, build, and program a robot and demonstrate how it performs a task. They’ll also learn how to use robots safely and explore robotics-related careers.  Scouts can assemble commercial robotics kits (such as Vex, LEGO Mindstorms, Ollo Bug, or Boe-Bot) or even build their own robots to complete the merit badge requirements.


"Meet the 4Moms Origami" Video - Launched on 6 January 2012, the Origami is what strollers should be. Not only does it use robotics to fold itself at the touch of a button, the Origami is powered by a generator in the rear wheels that charges the stroller as it's pushed - and can even charge your cell phone. It sports a thermometer, speedometer, daytime running lights, and the built-in child safety sensors that prevent its folding by accident. 4moms' robotic baby seat, the mamaRoo, was featured on another episode of How I Met Your Mother two weeks later.


RE2, Inc. announced recently that more than 100 units of the Company’s DS1-MA Manipulator Arm will be delivered to MacroUSA Corporation for integration onto the Armadillo Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MUGV).  One hundred of those units will be shipped to Afghanistan for user testing and evaluation in early 2012. The complete robotic system will provide general Infantry with a dismounted light-weight, yet robust MUGV.


Department of Defense - The Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO)plans to evaluate the DS1-MA and Armadillo as a part of a Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) request for improved man-transportable robotic capabilities. Troops in Afghanistan require a light-weight man-transportable and throwable robot that can be used to clear structures, perform reconnaissance missions, and counter IEDs during dismounted operations.

Delivery of more than one-hundred of their DS1-MA robotic manipulator arms marks a milestone in the Company’s history. Part of RE2’s mission is to develop usable technology that is deployed and used by our troops in order to save lives,” stated Jorgen Pedersen, president and CEO of RE2. “This product evaluation is a critical step toward greater adoption of our manipulation technology in the field.”

The DS1-MA is a modular payload that improves the mobility and utility of the Armadillo. The DS1-MA is a strong lightweight manipulator arm, weighing roughly four pounds with a lift capacity of up to ten pounds. The DS1-MA includes an actuated camera mast that provides the operator with a bird's eye view while manipulating objects, an elevated vantage point while driving, and ability to look under motor vehicles. The entire man-transportable system, including the Armadillo Micro UGV, DS1-MA manipulator arm, and Operator Control Unit, can be easily broken down in seconds.


Questions or comments, please contact Patti Rote or Erica Wissolik.


Last Updated: 19 April 2012


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