July 11, 2003
From investigating abandoned buildings to charting the hazardous terrain of Mars, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., design robots able to confront risky environments on Earth and elsewhere in the universe. Two free lectures on the topic will be held on Thursday, July 17, at JPL, and Friday, July 18, at Pasadena City College.
Robert Hogg and Brett Kennedy, robotics engineers and rover task managers for JPL's Mobility Systems Concept Development Section, will highlight three research robots at the lectures: the Micro-Robot Explorer, the Urban Robot, and the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot.
The Micro-Robot Explorer, nicknamed "Spider-bot," fits in the palm of a hand and has six legs, which may enable it to explore environments that wheeled rovers cannot. In large numbers, Spider-bots may potentially act as a wireless sensor web, with each robot sending sensor data to a base station that will record and relay the data to waiting scientists.
The JPL Urban Robot, or "Urbie," can autonomously navigate itself through unfamiliar terrain. It climbs over barriers, drives up stairs and, should it land upside down, flips itself over. Urbie also has a twin set of eye-like cameras that provide stereoscopic vision, the perception to avoid obstacles in its path.
The Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot, nicknamed "Lemur," also has six legs and is designed to perform dexterous small-scale assembly, inspection and maintenance of large space facilities. Engineers describe Lemur as the robotic, six-limbed primate with "Swiss Army knife tendencies."
Both free lectures are open to the public and begin at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway, will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112 or go to http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/jul03.html, where the Thursday lecture will be webcast live and archived for later viewing.
JPL/Lisa Townsend (818) 393-5464