Vaughn robotics team
 

Vaughn Robotics Team is Inspired to Advance in Engineering

By Vaughn College

Every year, the Vaughn Robotics Team participates in the VEX Worlds Robotics Competition. Here, this team competes against other student teams from schools all over the world, where they design and create robots with the goal of completing a themed task. The ultimate purpose of this competition is for all students to exercise their creative, analytical and technical skills to the limit. And with the great advances made in robotic technology on a near-daily basis, there is next to no limit of what can be accomplished.

Giving credit where it is due, Boston Dynamics introduces dog robot “Spot”

Take one nearly futuristic example of combined creativity and technology that was recently unveiled by Boston Dynamics, a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Essentially, “man’s best friend” is taking on a new role here, as its latest robot (named Spot) embarks on literally covering new ground.

The team at Boston Dynamics designed the untethered dog-like robot to assist in search and rescue operations and for being able to access disaster zones. Its sturdy and sure-footed design allows Spot to carry supplies over uneven terrain, while its super-human stability allows it to keep its balance, even when kicked over on its side. Designed as the baby brother to BigDog, the company’s quadrupedal robot, Spot is smaller and lighter and comes equipped with onboard sensors that allow it to recover quickly if it encounters hostile territory or a situation where it might “trip” or  tip over. Weighing in at 160 pounds, Spot is about 80 pounds lighter than his big brother and has BigDog beat when climbing up hills.

Although Spot has a dog’s name, its gait is more like a prancing horse. This electronically-powered robot may not have the same ability to carry the same weight as its big brother, but Spot’s unique dexterity allows it to navigate difficult areas, both indoors and outdoors. And when it comes to “seeing” the environment, Spot was designed with a rotating sensor on its back, rather than on a head-like structure.

This project was made possible with funding by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), whose mission is to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security.

Other “species” of robots

Spot is the newest arrival among the family of incredible animal-like robots from Boston Dynamics. Other cool creations include the WildCat, the world’s fastest free-running quadruped robot on Earth, which can run almost 20 mph while maneuvering and maintaining its balance, and the SandFlea, which drives like a remote-controlled car and can leap almost 33 feet into the air to avoid obstacles.

What does Dr. Rahemi, Vaughn’s chair of engineering and technology, have to say?

In preparation for the VEX Worlds Robotics Competition, the Vaughn Robotics team is aided and guided by Hossein Rahemi, PhD, chair of the Vaughn’s engineering and technology department. Dr. Rahemi has no doubt seen many impressive technological advancements in his day, and he is most enthusiastic about the latest developments from Boston Dynamics. “Today, robotics technology is advancing at a lightning pace, making our lives easier, better and safer than ever before,” he states. “We’re seeing robots going places that are too difficult or dangerous for humans to go, such as war zones deep within the sea and bomb threat areas, just to name a few.”

Vaughn students learn not just technology, but purpose

To keep up with the pace of robotics technology, and its purpose, Rahemi stresses Vaughn College’s commitment to educating its students on the importance of a sense of service to mankind. A top priority is the improvement of our environment to be a better and safer place. “We motivate, engage and provide our students with all the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in their career path,” Rahemi said. “Together, we can all be responsible individuals in the society we serve.”