Teams test robots in Charleston for world competition

Teams test robots in Charleston for world competition
Published: Mar. 12, 2015 at 11:43 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 12, 2015 at 11:50 PM EDT
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Source: Live 5 News
Source: Live 5 News

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Teams from around the world are testing robots in Charleston they designed to do amazing things. The robots can walk, open doors, drive vehicles, and pick up a drill to make a hole in the wall.

The robots are being developed to respond to disasters, so they must complete a series of challenges.

"How do you turn valves to open in the event of a disaster, move debris, things like that," says Gill Pratt, Program Manager of the Defense Sciences Office in the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants robots to do things people can't safely do.

"It's particularly inspired by the Fukushima disaster that happened in Japan," Pratt explains.

So DARPA has research teams from around the world responding to their challenge, or competition. Finals are in California in June.

SPAWAR offered to host a testing of communications systems in a disaster setting, so teams came to Joint Base Charleston in Goose Creek to give their robots a workout.

Teams ran through the challenges in a simulated disaster setting.

The robot that performs these challenges the best at the finals, will win a hefty prize.

First place is two million dollars, second place one million and third place is a half million dollars.

But competing team leaders say it's not about the money.

Dennis Hong, PhD from UCLS told Live 5 News, "We're developing technology to save people and lives, to save humanity. How cool is that!"

Local school students watching the robot demonstrations couldn't agree more.

"They're doing it to be able to help people and help situations. I think that's really..yes!" said Seth Thomson of Ashley Ridge High School. Standing next to Thomson was Dante Collins of West Ashley High School, who added, "sending robots would be safer."

The competing team leaders say it's what they're called to do, "when we can point to our technology and say well that really helped a community get back on its feet or save lives," said Paul Oh, PhD of UNLV.

He says it's not a competition, but instead a challenge.

"It's the right thing to do," he said.

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