November 21, 2008

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A bi-pedal robot being developed
by Bucknell researchers.

LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell University will receive $1.2 million in federal funding for research and development of military robots.

Keith Buffinton, professor and department chair of mechanical engineering, who, along with Steven Shooter, professor of mechanical engineering, are lead project researchers, said, “Obviously, we are very excited to receive funding to continue work on this project and to continue our collaboration with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.”

The long-term project focus, Buffinton said, is development of a bipedal walking robot that would move easily in an “unstructured urban environment. It would move over curbs, up stairs and around rubble.”

The applications for such a device which is being developed in conjunction with
investigators from the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition extend beyond military uses.

“It would have various purposes,” said Buffinton. “It could be used for surveillance and to gather information in areas you would not want to risk human life. It could be used in mine disasters. In the case of the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York, rescuers faced working in extremely dangerous conditions and toxic air. Robots could do more to take the risk from humans.”

The research involves a host of Bucknell engineering students. “The idea is to involve as many students as possible,” he said. “They are very involved at all levels.”

'Outstanding opportunity'
Shooter said the project has provided an “outstanding opportunity” for faculty and students at Bucknell to build relationships with top researchers in the field of robotics.

“The collaboration with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition provides opportunities to explore robotic technologies that would be difficult alone,” said Shooter. “These types of partnerships are the future of research that provide a win-win for everyone and have implications beyond just the scope of the project."

The researchers are currently assembling a bipedal walking robot and performing initial control system development.

Unique expertise
In announcing the funding that was included in the
Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act for 2009, Congressman Chris Carney said, “Researchers at Bucknell University have unique expertise in the areas of robot design, dynamics, control, modeling, simulation, prototyping experimentation and testing."

They have previously developed a number of robot platforms including two reconfigurable robots that can balance on two wheels, four bipedal walking robots, several robot arms, and various robotic exoskeletons. This important work will contribute to the future operational capabilities of the Armed Forces of the United States in utilizing UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles).”

“I am proud to support Bucknell University’s innovations for UGVs that protect our Armed Services,” said Carney. “As a trained Predator Mission Commander, I know how important the robot platforms are to protecting our troops while controlling the situation on the ground.”

Multiple benefits
Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell said that the University was “grateful to Congressman Carney for recognizing the multiple benefits of this project to the U.S. military, citizens at large, Bucknell students, and the Central Pennsylvania economy.

“Representative Carney sees clearly the enormous potential of Bucknell’s students and faculty in helping to drive economic progress and quality of life in the region,” added Mitchell.

Contact: Division of Communications