First response robotsRobots tackle tornado-damaged nuclear reactor
Sandia National Lab held the fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo; this year, teams competed in a simulation of a tornado-damaged nuclear reactor; tasks included quickly locating and moving simulated fuel rods, stopping the flow of radioactive water from running into the storm drain system, and minimizing radioactive contamination on the robot
Sandia National Lab held the fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo on two weeks ago. The Robot Rodeo is a four-day, 10-event technical competition for bomb squads and other public safety organizations that use hazardous duty robots.
“This competition is designed to test not only the operator’s skills and confidence but to also push the operators and the robots to their limits,” said Jake Deuel, Sandia robotics manager and one of the event organizers.
This year, teams competed in a simulation of a tornado-damaged nuclear reactor. Tasks included quickly locating and moving simulated fuel rods, stopping the flow of radioactive water from running into the storm drain system, and minimizing radioactive contamination on the robot.
In another simulated scenario, teams were asked to identify, locate, and dispose of suspected hazardous material stored in a residential garage. Six teams participated in the event this year: Albuquerque Police Department, New Mexico State Police, Doña Ana County, Los Alamos Police Department, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and New Jersey State Police.
The rodeo is a partnership among Sandia’s Robotic and Security Systems Department, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Emergency Response Group, and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators Region II.
The organizers say the competition offers benefits to the teams participating – and those watching it. “I guarantee that if they’re out on a real bomb call and they come across a situation we tested them on, they’re going to remember,” said Jake Deuel, manager of robotic and security systems at Sandia National Laboratories.
“One of the big things the teams get out of it is that we have resources as a national laboratory that they just don’t have access to,” Deuel told InnovationNewsDaily. “Most of these guys are cops first and bomb technicians second, so they just don’t get a lot of stick time driving the robot.”
Deuel hopes to see bomb squads get their hands on even better robots in coming years. Many existing robots still rely upon humans to direct their every move, but a robot that could think more for itself to, say, pick up an object or get from point A to point B would free up the human operator to look at the bigger picture.
Msnbc quotes him to say that “It may not be full ‘Jetsons’ when the robot picks something up, but we’re looking at ways to automate some of these systems.”