CSU, Chico News

Robotic Off-Highway Vehicle to Be Demonstrated on March 4

Date: 02-25-2009

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Nick Repanich
California Mechatronics Center

The California Mechatronics Center (CMC) at California State University, Chico is hosting a demonstration of a small, robotic off-highway vehicle (ROHV) on Wednesday, March 4, at 10 a.m., at the University Farm Pavilion off Hagen Lane in Chico. The public and press are invited to see this vehicle in action.

The ROHV is meant to scout the road before a military convoy to detect roadside explosives and other threats to personal safety. It can be driven using a console in the first vehicle of a convoy, up to a half mile behind the ROHV. Because the ROHV could be out of sight of the operator, it is able to transmit sound and visual images to alert operators of potential danger.

Another benefit of this robotic ROHV is that the price is very low compared to other devices now available to the military. The cost of these ROHVs is kept down by integrating off-the-shelf components where possible. “Not all government spending has to come in huge packages with large price tags to be effective,” said Nick Repanich, director of CMC. “We focus on really inexpensive ways to do 80 percent of what a military-specialized robot might do, at one-tenth of the cost.”

This ROHV is still a concept vehicle, which means that at this stage it can’t go as fast as researchers think it will as they it develop it further. “Then again, a military convoy is not a high-speed endeavor!” said Repanich.

The project is being funded by a grant from Lawrence Livermore Labs. The center is also working on a small robot, Scout, that can be used for such things as detecting radiation in nuclear facilities. Scout is driven from a remote console away from the danger area.

Recently, said Repanich, the City of Chico asked for a midsized version of a Scout robot for inspecting suspicious packages. Engineering students will be developing this idea over the next several months.

Mike Ward, interim dean for the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Construction Management, has been instrumental in the robot projects from their inception.

For more information or directions to the University Farm Pavilion, contact Repanich at 530-898-5660.