This winter, 13 robotics teams from around the country will participate in the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project’s Agency) Robotic’s Challenge. As per their web site…
“The goal of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is to generate groundbreaking research and development so that future robotics can perform the most hazardous activities in future disaster response operations, in tandem with their human counterparts, in order to reduce casualties, avoid further destruction, and save lives.
Within the coming months, the Challenge will test the participating Teams’ robots ability to work in rough terrain and their capacity to use human aids such as vehicles and hand tools in three events.”
Philly’s own Drexel University is part of a team that is vying for top prize and bragging rights at this year’s trials. Led by Dr. Paul Oh, team leader and director of the Drexel Autonomous Systems Laboratory, the team is comprised of 8 different universities across the US and 1 in Korea.
The team was divided into 8, each focusing on 1 specific task of the 8-tiered DARPA challenge. Over the summer, the team members from all of the participating universities made their way to Drexel to combine their work in one environment. Full size sets duplicating the testing grounds were built at The Armory, which serves as headquarters of the team.
Tasked with completing such actions as valve turning, rough terrain walking and more, Drexel’s robot, the DRC-HUBO model, has been given many programming and physical modifications. These include 3-fingered hands and trinocluar vision to improve depth perception. While 13 teams (including NASA) will compete, 7 were given the Boston Dynamics Robot in lieu of their own designs while Drexel was one of the 6 allowed to keep their original robot. You go HUBO! You can learn more about HUBO’s upgrades at the team’s blog.
Geekadelphia was invited to visit the Armory and see HUBO in action. Lab Manager Robert Ellenberg gave us a tour of the sets and their workspace. We were then given a demo of HUBO’s quadripedal walking (which improves the steadiness in rough terrain) as well as detaching a fire hose, an example of the aforementioned “valve turning” exercise. Dr. Oh was on-hand for the fire hose demo and expressed his enthusiasm for completing the challenge. He also liked my Daft Punk T-shirt, bonus!
The DARPA Robotics Challenge will take place on December 20-21 at the Homestead Speedway in Florida and is open to the public. If you can’t make it down south for the competition, take advantage of the free tours being given at the Armory. You can do so by emailing [email protected] or [email protected].
It really is an interesting and educational way to spend an afternoon! And be sure to root for Drexel and HUBO in this year’s battle!