The Tartan Rescue Team and its CHIMP robot will be Carnegie Mellon University’s most visible presence at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials in Homestead, Fla., Dec. 20-21, but CMU also will play an important role on a second participant, Team WRECS, based at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
Chris Atkeson, professor of robotics, and 10 current or recent CMU grad students and postdocs, are part of WPI’s Robotics Engineering C Squad (WRECS). The team, led by WPI alumnus Matt DeDonato, was one of the top finishers in the DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge this summer. This qualified the team to receive a 6-foot-two-inch, 330-pound Atlas humanoid, designed and built for the DRC by Boston Dynamics, a company recently acquired by Google. The team dubbed the robot WPI’s Atlas Robot for Nonconventional Emergency Response, or WARNER.
Atkeson's research specialty is humanoids. The CMU contingent on Team WRECS includes Joohyung Kim, Xiaopeng Chen, Chenggang Liu, Weiwei Huang, Hirotaka Moriguchi, Eric Whitman, Dongil Choi, Siyuan Feng, Ben Xinjilefu and Bowei Tang.
In the DRC, robots will perform the type of tasks that a robot might need to do to respond to man-made and natural disasters, such as averting the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis. “In the short time that we have had WARNER, the team has taken a robot that could barely walk and transformed it into a machine that can drive a car, climb a ladder, use power tools and perform many human-like tasks,” DeDonato said.
Seventeen teams are set to compete in the DRC Trials, including seven teams that will use the Atlas. The other teams, including the Tartan Rescue Team from CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center, are using robots each team has developed. Based on their performance during the Trials, up to eight teams will be chosen by DARPA to receive up to $1 million to help them prepare for the DRC Finals in December 2014.
During the Trials, DARPA will provide updates on its web site, http://theroboticschallenge.org/. Follow Team WRECS on Twitter @WPI_WARNER and the Tartan Rescue Team @TartanRescue.