Electronic Design

Fire, Robot

The next generation of firefighters may not be wearing boots and suspenders—instead, they’ll be robots. A glimpse of such a future can be seen at Trinity College’s 12th annual Fire-Fighting Robot Contest, scheduled for April 9-10, 2005 at the school in Hartford, Conn. Here, teams of designers, ranging from grade-school students to professional engineers, will develop autonomous robots that can negotiate a model floorplan structure of a house, find a lit candle, and extinguish it as quickly as possible.

Divisions will range from Junior (eighth grade and below) to Expert. While speed is of the essence, the scoring system will emphasize reliability. The robots can use foam, powder, water, air, carbon dioxide, or any other non-harmful substance to put out the flame. Also, the robots will have a maximum footprint of 31 cm2, with a maximum height of 27 cm. Most of the robots will compete in simple, one-level mazes, yet several surprises are in place for the Expert competitors.

These advanced robots will have to negotiate a second floor in the mazes. There, they will have to find a “baby” (a 12-in. doll) and plant a beeper nearby—in effect, leading the “fire department” to her rescue. Also, they will have to put out another candle on the second floor. At the same time, they must maneuver around obstacles and over uneven surfaces, just as if they were in a real house. Challenges like these are designed to spur innovative solutions, advancing the technology and bringing robotic lifesavers closer to reality.

For details, go to www.trincoll.edu/events/robot.

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