U.S. college team places in national robotics competition

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s humanoid robot placed seventh at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge Trials in Homestead, Fla.


The Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) Atlas Robot for Nonconventional Emergency Response (WARNER) competed against 16 robotics teams from around the world. The robotics challenge was inspired by the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, which created an environment that was too hazardous for people to enter. As a response to that event, each team in the competition developed humanoid robots that could help respond to man-made and natural disasters.

Courtesy of Andrew BaronThe robots were charged with completing eight specific autonomous and semi-autonomous tasks ranging from clearing debris to climbing a ladder. Teams were awarded a maximum of four points for each task for a total potential of 32 points. The institute's team earned 11 points.

WARNER, which stood at 6 ft 2 in. and weighed 330 lb, drove a Polaris Ranger XP 900 the distance of 250 ft in 6 minutes—faster than any other team. As a result, the institute's team received the “Best in Task Vehicle Award” during the awards ceremony following the event.

“The driving task was one of the most demanding from a testing standpoint, and our team really did an outstanding job,” said Matt DeDonato, the team leader. “We couldn’t be happier for the effort the team put forth on that task and throughout the competition.”

DeDonato attributed the driving to strong testing and simulation during the earlier Virtual Robotics Challenge. The driving task was considered key as first responders need to program robots to first get to a disaster scene before they embark on other tasks.

Gill Pratt, a Dynamics Research Corporation program manager, said the government will now enter into contract negotiations with the top eight teams to fund them for next year's DARPA Robotics Finals in December 2014. “Assuming those contract negotiations are successful and funds are available, those would be the eight that move forward,” Pratt said.

In addition to the driving challenge, WARNER participated in two additional mobility tasks, earning two points for climbing a ladder and two points for traversing terrain covered with cinder blocks.

Finishing in first place, the Japan-based SCHAFT earned 27 points, followed by IHMC Robotics with 20 points, Tartan Rescue with 18 points, MIT with 16 points, RoboSimian with 14 points, and Team TRACLabs with 11 points. Although WPI tied with Team TRACLabs, the WPI squad finished one place after them because WARNER required more human interventions during the tasks.

- Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, Associate Content Manager

See other Control Engineering robotics coverage.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.