Student robotic challenges also place emphasis on teamwork

The Roxbury Township basketball robot takes a shot at the basket during a recent FIRST Robotics Competition. Standing in back cheering in a red jumpsuit, his right arm raised, is Shahram Dabiri, the Roxbury team coach and mentor. Dabiri is also the DoD Ordnance Technology Consortium Technology Manager at Picatinny Arsenal.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. — Eight high school robotics teams mentored by engineers at the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) competed March 31st to April 1st at the Mount Olive High School in some friendly robot basketball.

The teams participated in a competition called “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” (FIRST), which challenges student teams to design, build and compete against one another with…

Click here to read more.

Robotics competitions promote science education for students

By Ed Lopez

A team from Newton High School in Sussex County, N.J., controls its robot while competing in the FIRST 2010 International Finals in Atlanta. FIRST means "For Inspiration and recognition of science and technology."

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. – It is often said that the difference between men and boys is the cost of their toys.

An organization called “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” (FIRST) allows them to play together.

In fact it encourages not only men and boys–but also girls and women –to join in the same activities.

FIRST exists to encourage students from many nations to experience technology and engineering through competitive robotics challenges at several levels.

Personnel at Picatinny Arsenal are involved in advancing the learning and cooperation that the program fosters, and in the process promoting education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Click here for more.

Army works with industry, academia to study micro-robotics

Army scientist Dr. Brett Piekarski leads the U.S. Army's Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance, studying miniature robotics.

Army scientist Dr. Brett Piekarski leads the U.S. Army's Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance, studying miniature robotics. (U.S. Army photo by Doug Lafon)

ADELPHI, Md. (Feb. 27, 2011) — Imagine a future when American Soldiers will see threats lurking just beyond their vision with help from autonomous robots the size of bats and hummingbirds and even down to the size of a fruit fly.

“The idea is that last 100 meters coming up to a threat building, a cave or a tunnel system,” said Army scientist Dr. Brett Piekarski, Ph.D., “I want to send something in to give us informational awareness before the Soldier goes into that environment.”

Piekarski leads the U.S. Army’s Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance, studying miniature robotics. He envisions tiny intelligent robots helping Soldiers accomplish complex tasks.

“It’s all about that last 100 meters. The Soldier releases micro-robotic platforms. They find their own way into the building or whatever the environment,” he said. “They navigate within that building on their own. They map out the building. They detect threats. They get information back out to the Soldier. And, they do all of this autonomously.”

The reality is still years away.

The Army initiated a partnership with academia and industry nearly five years ago to conduct basic research.

A problem with today’s robots is the ratio of user-to-robot. Today, Soldiers remotely control the movements of robots.

“When the Soldier is driving it, he’s focused on the screen, and not protecting himself. If he were to drive it into the building and lose connectivity or communications, to get it back, he’d have to go in and get it.”

The vision for the future is to have many robots overseen by one Soldier.

“That’s the goal, he said. “Find your way in and get the information back out. While the robot is doing that, the Soldier can be doing something else.”

When the program started, the Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Md., had several objectives. Scientists wanted to understand fundamental technologies that would to enable autonomous micro-robots to work together.

“We’re talking about systems that are really small, collaborative, autonomous robotic platforms all the way down to the insect size,” Piekarski said. “These things are operating from the handheld size all the way down to fruit-fly size platforms.”

How big is a fruit fly? Consider making a functional robot that’s approximately 1/16 of an inch long. ARL scientists developed and fabricated fruit-fly size flapping wings in coordination with researchers at the Universities of Maryland and Washington who are working on understanding bee and fly flight mechanics and controls. Harvard University researchers are working on insect flight at a slightly larger scale.

“One of the questions was whether flapping wing flight is better than rotary or fixed wing,” he said. “A lot of what has been researched over the last four years is to understand the mechanics of wing motion.”

Piekarski said a bee can right itself within a couple of turns when being hit by a wind gust — much more quickly than existing robotics systems.

“How do they do that? They don’t have the complex sensors we have. They’re working with very simple systems and controls. We’re trying to understand the control theories,” he said. ”
We looked at nature to see what we could learn from biological systems. How can we apply some of those lessons to robotic platforms to enable these small-scale platforms? It’s very broad, complex and interdisciplinary.”

The Army’s research program, Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology, is known as MAST. It brings together a lead defense contractor, BAE Systems, to work on microsystems integration.

The University of Michigan works on microelectronics, while the University of Maryland focuses
on microsystem mechanics. The University of Pennsylvania works on processing for autonomous operations.

Researchers are studying more than 70 complex tasks. As an alliance, other additional working general members support research within the centers and thrust areas. Members include the University of California at Berkeley, the Cal Tech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

The researchers are developing both ground and air collaborative platforms, as well as a hybrid of the two.

The project started in 2008 as a five-year journey, with an option for another five years. Looking back, many auspicious events were happening in the robotics field, Piekarski said.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research organization of the U.S. Department of Defense known as DARPA, wanted to see who had the technological know-how to create the first fully autonomous ground vehicles capable of completing a substantial off-road course within a limited time. A team of Stanford University researchers won the $2 million DARPA Grand Challenge on Oct. 8, 2005. The competition was for driverless vehicles using ladar, a laser range finder. It paints a 3-D image of its environment.

“That’s a pretty substantial piece of equipment, and it’s not something you can put on a 20-gram robot,” Piekarski said. “The question is, if you go down to a 20-gram flier that has three to five grams of payload, what kind of sensors can you put on it? The algorithms you have for the DARPA Grand Challenge vehicles have multiple duel-core processors in the back; they have big sensors, radar, ladar and more. They’ve even got sensors on the wheels. You’re not going to put that on a 20-gram platform.”

Piekarski said the challenge of autonomous microrobots is more challenging.

“Not only are we trying to navigate, we’re trying to collaborate with other platforms,” he said.

“We’re trying to do communications and network links. We’re trying to control threat detection. It’s a more complex problem on a much more constrained platform.”

Piekarski is optimistic because of MAST program accomplishments so far. Now, Army officials are evaluating the next step. The Army funds a large portion of the research, but industry and academia are invested.

“We’re not there yet, but we’ve done a lot of good basic research,” Piekarski said.
Energy requirements are another challenge.

“Power is a big problem for some of these smaller platforms,” he said. “The lifetimes some of the emerging technologies are about five or 10 minutes. Some platforms are at 20 minutes. But, through a combination of approaches we think we’ll be able to address the solution as we progress in the technology.”

Piekarski hopes to leverage the huge investment in small batteries being made by industry for small electronics.

Someday the MAST vision may offer revolutionary ways for Soldiers to gather vital information on the battlefield. This research also has several applications outside the military, Piekarski said.

“We’re trying to create a capability for the Soldier so we don’t have to send him into a threat situation. You could apply those same things in the civilian world where there may be threats, like police, fire, rescue and disaster relief, for example. A lot of the individual technology can and is being spun out to transition to larger commercial platforms over the course of the program,” he said.

“We want to increase the operational tempo to match that of the Soldier so the robotics can move and detect threats at the same tempo as the Soldier as they move through complex environments,” Piekarski said.

Today’s autonomous systems operate at a much slower pace.

“We’re working with the consortium to identify the real focus for the next five years,” Piekarski said. “As we go into the next five years, how are we going to change that focus? The base goals are still the same. It’s a force multiplier. I want to be able to add to their capability where they can go into a building and distribute sensors. Robots will go in to see if there are any threats. If not, they distribute and leave behind sensors.”

Piekarski envisions a scenario where an aerial vehicle might drop several ground platforms that distribute themselves, find places to hide and create a communication network.

“You can think of it as a mobile sensor network that gets left behind,” he said. “In the future, a Soldier would have two or three micro-robots in his pocket. He would let them go and they would operate autonomously. He wouldn’t have to drive; the platforms might have more sensors, more payload. It might detect people or chemicals, maybe even nuclear residue. In the end, there is an enhanced capability while freeing up the time of the Soldier.”

The project won’t develop a single product, and that’s not its purpose, Piekarski said. “It’s a fundamental research program. We’re looking at how far we can push the technology. We want to understand the fundamentals of winged flight — not just to see if we can make something fly, but understand why it flies. We want to develop control algorithms and develop a fundamental understanding of these technologies.”

Some may see parallels with science fiction. Piekarski discussed a scene from the movie “Minority Report” where police released spider-like micro-robots. They quickly detected their target and relayed that information.

“Life has a way of imitating art,” Piekarski said. “To get to where we want to go we have to have real autonomous systems navigating through these buildings and working collaboratively. “We’re going to have to have integrated solutions to make those things a reality, and that’s where our program is going.”

Out of the classroom and into the field

 

TARDEC Senior Research Scientist for Robotics Dr. Jim Overholt addresses participants during opening ceremonies for the 19th Annual IGVC June 3, 2011. College students from across the world competed in robotics challenges, including a navigational course and an autonomous challenge. The program is part of TARDEC’s ongoing commitment to develop future scientists and engineers and provide students with real-world expertise to prepare them for future careers. (U.S. Army TARDEC photos by Chris Williams).

TARDEC Senior Research Scientist for Robotics Dr. Jim Overholt addresses participants during opening ceremonies for the 19th Annual IGVC June 3, 2011. College students from across the world competed in robotics challenges, including a navigational course and an autonomous challenge. The program is part of TARDEC’s ongoing commitment to develop future scientists and engineers and provide students with real-world expertise to prepare them for future careers. (U.S. Army TARDEC photos by Chris Williams).

Forty teams from around the world converged June 3–6, 2011, on Oakland University’s campus in Rochester, MI, for the 19th Annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, hosted by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The culmination of many of the Army’s robotics education programs, IGVC allows future scientists and engineers the chance to get their hands dirty developing systems with real-world applications.

Read more…

Robotics technology may keep Soldiers far from harm

 

A TALON robot inspects a suspected improvised explosive device. Robots such as TALON allow warfighters to clear routes quickly without having to wait for Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to do so. Advancements in LDTO technology are making it possible to control these systems even further removed from the battlefield, increasing Soldier standoff distance. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Giancarlo Casem.)

A TALON robot inspects a suspected improvised explosive device. Robots such as TALON allow warfighters to clear routes quickly without having to wait for Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams to do so. Advancements in LDTO technology are making it possible to control these systems even further removed from the battlefield, increasing Soldier standoff distance. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Giancarlo Casem.)

 

Unmanned ground vehicles  allow Warfighters to perform surveillance, route clearance and threat defeat from safer distances. Tele-operation makes it possible for Warfighters to maintain even greater standoff distances while conducting these dangerous tasks.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering command’s tank and automotive center’ s advances may make it possible to perform these missions at an even greater distance, possibly far from the battlefield.

Read more…

Science, technology NCOs focus on professional development

RDECOM NCOs visit TARDEC

A group of RDECOM Soldiers gets a hands-on demonstration of the latest robotic technology at the U.S. Army Tank, Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Joint Center for Robotics.

WARREN, Mich. — Being warfighter focused is more than just a catch phrase. At the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, the warfighter is central to every mission.

A group of 37 noncommissioned officers from across the command, laboratories and research center met for an intense professional development event at to the U.S. Army Tank, Automotive, Research, Development and Engineering Center March 7-11. The group engaged scientists and engineers discussing the ever-changing technological needs and requirements of today’s Warfighter.

For more, go to http://go.usa.gov/24y

Like us on Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

Picatinny advances EOD training with video game technology

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. – Picatinny recently received a patent for a process to safely train Soldiers how to operate a variety of robots used in Iraq and Afghanistan to detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

The Robotic Vehicle Trainer is a realistic video game that simulates combat environments and uses the same controls as actual robots used in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).

The design was the brainchild of Dr. Bernard Reger, chief of the Combat Support & Munitions Systems Branch, Armament Software Engineering Center, Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC).

Reger received the patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on December 28, 2010, (number 7,860,614) for a Robotic Vehicle Trainer.

READ MORE

Australia, U.S. name finalists in worldwide robotics competition

Australia, U.S. name finalists in worldwide robotics competition

U.S. ARMY DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. – Six high-tech science and technology teams from four continents have been named finalists in the inaugural Multi Autonomous Ground-Robotic International Challenge. Teams from the United States, Turkey, Japan and Australia have been selected by the U.S. and the Australian departments of defense to compete this November in Australia in an effort to develop the next generation of fully-autonomous ground robots.

Dr. Grace Bochenek, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center director, announced the finalists today who will compete at the Royal Showground in Adelaide, South Australia, Nov. 8-13.

Read more…

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

Australian, U.S. officials meet to plan robotics challenge

MAGIC 2010 Planning Conference

NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — Australian and American military officials met here July 20-22 to plan for the Multi Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC 2010) Nov. 8-12 in Australia. Universities and industries from around the world will compete their robots. MAGIC is jointly sponsored by the Australian and U.S. Departments of Defense.

RDECOM - View my 'MAGIC 2010 Planning Conference' set on Flickriver

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

U.S. Army technologies to star at inaugural Maker Faire Detroit

The U.S. Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command will engage Makers – techies and Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts – from all over the nation at Maker Faire Detroit, July 31-Aug. 1.
Read more.

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!

Army cohosts robotics challenge

DETROIT ARSENAL, WARREN, MI – As part of an international robotics competition cohosted by the U.S. Army and Australian Department of Defense, a team of Army robotics scientists visited the University of Michigan June 21.

Michigan students demonstrated the University’s entry giving the scientists a first-hand look at the advanced technology this team could bring to the final event – if the Wolverine team makes the cut and goes to the finals in Australia.

Read more…

Army testing rugged, autonomous robot vehicle

Army testing rugged, autonomous robot vehicle
ARLINGTON, Va. (June 2, 2010) — The U.S. Army’s Autonomous Platform Demonstrator, or APD, is a 9.6-ton, six-wheeled, hybrid-electric robotic vehicle currently undergoing developmental and mobility testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; the demonstrator vehicle represents the state of the art in unmanned ground vehicle mobility technology.

With its advanced hybrid-electric drive train, the 15-foot-long vehicle, being developed by the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, can achieve speeds of over 50mph.

Read more…

Follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and visit the RDECOM homepage!


Bookmark and Share

TARDEC hosts fourth consecutive RET Week

Middle and high school students from around Michigan have been invited to Macomb Community College May 4-5 to learn about future, attainable careers in robotics and engineering and see the latest trends for semi-autonomous robotics in action.

The event – titled Robotics, Engineering and Technology (RET) Week – is hosted for the fourth consecutive year by the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Read more…

Army to improve speciality rucksack

Army to improve speciality rucksack
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — The Army is looking at ways to improve a special rucksack designed to carry a robotic vehicle on a Soldier’s back.

The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle weighs less than 30 pounds and is finding many uses across the Army. Soldiers carry the SUGV into urban terrain, tunnels, sewers, and caves where the mission may be manpower-intensive or high-risk. The SUGV helps save lives by becoming mobile eyes and ears, or even detecting chemical or toxic agents.

Read more…

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

Army leverages private industry, academia to advance robotics research

Army leverages private industry, academia to advance robotics research
ADELPHI, Md. — Developing smart robots with the ability to work for and alongside Soldiers is the ultimate goal of the Army’s $63.2 million investment in a new robotics cooperative agreement with industry and academia over the next five years.

The Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance is expected to push the research needed to make autonomous robots accomplish more missions and take some of the burden off Soldiers on the battlefield, said Army Research Laboratory’s Dr. Jon Bornstein, chief of the Robotics Autonomous Systems Division and CTA manager.

Read more…

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

TARDEC to showcase innovation at technology show

army.mil-69635-2010-04-12-100412

DETROIT ARSENAL, WARREN, Mich. – Army technology is set to dazzle visitors to the Society of Automotive Engineers International 2010 World Congress and Exhibition this week at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s tank and automotive center will have one of the largest display areas at SAE 2010. In addition to supporting the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center display, top military and government officials will tour the exhibition and be available for discussion.

SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries.

Read more…

Fan us on  Facebook!Follow us on  Twitter!Contact us  on Flickr!Subscribe on YouTube!We're on CNN  iReport!Linkedin  discussions!


Bookmark and Share

Army debuts new tool to defeat IEDs

Army debuts new tool to defeat IEDs
Soldiers spoke and the Army listened. Officials will debut a new device designed to combat the deadly threat of improvised explosive devices during a Florida conference later this month.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s tank and automotive center will publically display its newest technology for the first time at the National Defense Industry Association’s Ground Robotic Capabilities Conference and Exhibition March 16-18 in Miami, Fla.

The Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center will display military robots in a an industry-wide push for interoperability during the event. To highlight the theme “Dual Role of Robotics Technologies – Public and Private Sector,” the conference will bring together Warfighters, first responders, and government and industry technology professionals to address increased responsiveness to user needs.
Read more…

Follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and visit the RDECOM homepage!


Bookmark and Share

Army robots save lives

Army robots save lives
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Ozechoski, assigned to the Joint Robotic Repair Facility at Camp Victory, Iraq, demonstrates how to use a Talon-3B robot, used by military Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams for detecting and defeating roadside bombs in Iraq.

EOD personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan use robots such as this in the reconnaissance, disruption, and safe detonation of improvised explosive devices. The U.S. Army Reseach, Development and Engineering Command has people working on perfecting robotic technology to provide Soldiers in the field with solutions that save lives. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michele A. Desrochers/Released)

Follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and visit the RDECOM homepage!


Bookmark and Share

Army pushes for advancements in walking robots

BigDog is a rough-terrain robot that walks, runs, climbs and carries heavy loads. It is powered by an engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system and has four legs that are articulated like an animal’s with compliant elements to absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. (BigDog image provided courtesy of Boston Dynamics ©2009.)
The future of robotics offers almost limitless possibilities for the U.S. Army, which is placing a significant emphasis on this new but quickly emerging field. To facilitate ideas, development and advancement in the robotics field, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center hosted the sixth TARDEC Robotics Quarterly Workshop this past September. Patrick Pinter has the story. Read more…

Follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and visit the RDECOM homepage!

Bookmark and Share