I’m a big believer in robots, especially the kind that can help you do a specific job. Most times, the job is mundane, such as a vacuum cleaning. But sometimes the job is crucial to the well being of many people. Such is the case with a new robot designed to search out and tag the position of land mines. If you can believe this statistic, the United Nations estimates that more than 2,000 people are killed or maimed by mine explosions each month. To find a solution to this problem, Carl V. Nelson, a principal staff physicist at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has been developing new sensors to detect land mines. But he needed a device to carry these sensors into areas of thick vegetation where explosives are often hidden. Four undergraduates from Johns Hopkins took up the challenge. To carry the sensors through rough terrain, the students designed a two-piece vehicle that rolls on tank-type treads. The front portion moves the robot, using two cordless power drill motors connected to a sealed lead-acid battery. Atop the drive segment is a color video camera, enabling a human operator to see what the robot encounters. The drive segment is attached to a second unit that will eventually house Nelson’s sophisticated sensors, but now uses a standard metal detector. This rear segment also is equipped with a small storage tank and a spray paint nozzle to mark the spot when a possible mine is located. To guide the robot from a safe distance, the students constructed a battery-powered controller with a joystick and display. It’s very encouraging to see this type of work being done by young engineers. Hopefully, their efforts will someday make a dent in that awful statistic. To view an online video of this project, point your browser to http://www.jhu.edu/ news_info/news/audio-video/mediamines.html E-mail your comments to me at [email protected]
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