CSU, Chico News

Robot Demonstration Friday (Today) at Noon

Date: 01-30-2009

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Two California State University, Chico Research Foundation projects in robotics will be discussed today at noon in O’Connell 254. In addition, the robot Scout will demonstrate some of his abilities. Jason Coates, project engineer, will provide information on the two projects.

Nick Repanich, project director, said that in addition to Scout, the project is working on larger robotic vehicles that are out at the University Farm and down at Livermore and unavailable for demonstration. “Plus they weigh 2,500 pounds,” said Repanich, “and there is no easy way to bring one into the classroom. We will have videos of the larger robot, and we would be more than happy to have those interested visit the farm if they want to see it.”

Over the last few years, engineers from ECC have been involved in remote- controlled vehicle projects ranging in size from 1/10th scale trucks to full-sized, side-by-side ATVs. The two current projects include a robot that will do inspections of nuclear facilities and robots that are being developed for Lawrence Livermore Labs.

One project is to engineer a small robot that can be driven ahead of a scouting party to see if there are threats before soldiers enter the area. The robot would have many of the same senses a human has, including sight and sound detection, with an audio/video feedback to a convoy. These kinds of robots also have application in the nuclear energy environment, entering an area and testing for radiation. The scouts are driven from a remote console away from the danger area.

The second kind of robot is a series of full-sized vehicles that would drive in front of large convoy of vehicles, checking for danger far ahead. These can be driven by the passenger in the front vehicle at a fairly high speed.

All of these projects have the common goal of keeping people out of harm’s way by replacing them with inexpensive robotic units with a “disposable” price tag. High development costs are bypassed by integrating off-the-shelf components where possible.

The public and the media are encouraged to attend to learn about the California Mechatronic Center and its work. “We focus on really inexpensive ways to do 80 percent of what a military-specialized robot might do, at one-tenth of the cost,” said Repanich.

Mike Ward, interim dean for the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management, will be available for comment on the robot projects.

Another demonstration day is being planned for Feb. 20. For more information, contact Repanich at 530-898-5660.