Archives for January 2010

Mars Rover Spirit Update

In an update of the Mars rover's situation, the flight controllers have indicated that the plans will switch to surviving the upcoming Martian winter rather than trying to extricate Spirit from the sand trap where it is stuck.  The story from Cosmic Log is linked to below.  Follow that link to read the post. 

    "Right now the rover is embedded … we do not believe it's extractable," Doug     McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said today during a     teleconference. "Right now the worry is about getting through the winter."


Robot From Castrol Can Kick Soccer Balls at 200 km/hr

This is for all FIRST robotics teams looking for ideas to design a kicker for this year’s competition:  Don’t try this one!  It probably won’t pass inspection.  Castrol has built (or in this case, over-built) a  robot to break the record set by a soccer legend.  Not only does it break the record, but it would probably break bones.  The human record by Cristiano Ronaldo is 130 km/hr.  Castrol’s robot blasts the ball at over 200 km/hr.  Watch the video at Engadget and Marca (Spanish) to see the pieces fly when the plywood players get in the way.  You can also read the story at that link or at the link below.

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders

Credit:  Engadget and Marca

Soccer players are generally such crybabies that we can understand why you'd want to replace them with robots, and sometimes that's done with great success. We don't think we'll be seeing this latest player on the pitch anytime soon, though. It's something of an exhibition robot, a creation sponsored by Castrol to beat the legendary leg of Cristiano Ronaldo, who can kick the ball at 130km/h.

Continue reading Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 26 Jan 2010 10:46:00 EST.

Castrol builds freakishly large robot to kick a soccer ball, break legs of silhouette defenders
Tim Stevens
Tue, 26 Jan 2010 15:46:00 GMT

Robotic Insects Could DASH to the Rescue

The Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod (DASH) is being outfitted to locate victims that are trapped in rubble.  RobotNext posted a blog on this invention back in October 2009.  This is a cockroach-inspired robot that can move quickly and speedily like its model.  Also, like its insect model, it can fall great distances and survive to run again.  You can see the video on You Tube of this robo-roach in action.  Check out the story below for the complete story.

motorcrawler roachbot

Credit:  Biomimetic Millisystems Lab and UC Berkeley via ZDnet

Paul Birkmeyer, the graduate student who designed the robots, shows his creation. Researchers are trying to add cameras and detectors that can locate people's breath. DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod) is a resilient high-speed 16-gram …

Robotic Insects Could Help In Search, Rescue Efforts – Daily Californian
(author unknown)
Fri, 22 Jan 2010 09:05:00 GMT

Spherical Robots Practice Formation Flying in Space

NASA has this experiment onboard the International Space Space to test the concept of robot flying in formation and performing other manuevers in space. 

The NASA website explains, “Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) are bowling-ball sized spherical satellites.  Three free-flying spheres can fly within the cabin of the Space Station, performing flight formations. Each satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computers and navigation equipment. The results are important for satellite servicing, vehicle assembly and formation flying spacecraft configurations.”

It would seem that these little robots could be great assistants for the astronauts.  They could hold cameras, carry tools, or they could provide lighting for work situations.  I don’t know if they are being considered for that work, but they should.  Read the stories at the links below for more information.


Photo Credit:  NASA

“MIT has had a set of robots called SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) on board the International Space Station since May of 2006 to test out algorithms for autonomous navigation and docking maneuvers. Each sphere is about 8″ in diameter and has 18 sides. They gets around with 12 thrusters powered by compressed CO2, while ultrasonic and infrared sensors and a wireless link tell them where they are. SPHERES are able to maneuver precisely enough to dance around in a circle on the ISS; watch as a third robot enters the pattern:

The idea behind SPHERES is that a bunch of small satellites working together is much cheaper, much more efficient, and much more robust than one single large satellite. It’s swarm robotics, up in space.”  From BotJunkie

The following sites provided source materials for this article



MIT Spheres

Danger Room

Spherical Robots Dance In Space
Evan Ackerman
Thu, 21 Jan 2010 11:55:49 GMT

Robots Use Tricks From Nature to Climb Walls

The latest projects of Amir Shapiro, head of the robotics laboratory in the Department of Engineering, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheeba, Israel, are wall-climbers.  In keeping with an on-going theme of RobotNext, this article is about the robot/nature connection.  These robots are using techniques from nature to defy gravity.   One robot is based on the method that snails use in attaching to a vertical surface.  However, instead of mucus, the bots secrete a trail of glue to enable them to stick as they ascend the walls.  Another robot, this one inspired by cats and rodents, has four appendages with fishhook claws to assist  it’s climb up a rough surface.

A third robot uses a not-so-natural method of sticky tape on its wheels to climb vertical, smooth surfaces.  You can see this demonstrated in the video on the PhysOrg website.  The fourth is magnetic and can climb smooth metal surfaces such as a white board

Dr. Shapiro works in the area of research known as biomimetics, which involves using technology to mimic nature.  This field has produced many diverse types of robots such as climbing robots, grasshoppers, and snakes.  Check the links below to see the whole story on these climbing robots.

( — A robotics scientist from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheeba, Israel, has developed four different kinds of robots that climb
See all stories on this topic

Robots climb up the wall (w/ Video)
Tue, 19 Jan 2010 13:09:21 GMT

Hexapod Robot Controls Chaos to Make Right Moves

This remarkable looking little robot is using what would be called muscle memory in humans to adapt to travel over rough terrain.  Resembling a scorpion, it is designed to control chaotic movements and essentially make its motions non-chaotic.  What this means is that the hexapod robot can move autonomously over a rugged surface.  You can see video on the Scientific American site and read the rest of the story there too.

Max Planck, robot

Credit:  Poramate Manoonpong and Marc Timme, University of Goettingen and Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization

"Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience researcher Poramate Manoonpong and Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization researcher Marc Timme are leading a project that has created a six-legged robot with one CPG that can switch gaits depending upon the obstacles it encounters."


Robot Ocean Gliders

Researchers are preparing to send forth a swarm of underwater gliders for a mission to explore the tropical Atlantic.  Information on temperature, salinity, oxygen and chlorophyll content as well as the turbidity of the sea water will be measured and sent back to the scientists at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM-GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany. 

As reported on the website at IFM-GEOMAR,  “A very successful mission using a single glider took place between August and October 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Cape Verde Islands. The robot carried out measurements along a more than 1000 kilometres long track autonomously, before it was recovered by the German research vessel METEOR. The data collected are accessible online at”

Now a fleet of these torpedo-like craft will venture out to document the ocean properties in the tropical Atlantic.  Read the entire story from TG Daily at the link below, and then see all other articles on this in the other stories link.

TG Daily

Europe's largest fleet of underwater robot gliders is about to embark on its first research mission in the tropical Atlantic. The gliders, operated by
See all stories on this topic

Robot gliders take to the seas
TG Daily
Fri, 15 Jan 2010 13:39:15 GMT

Boeing Awards Grant to San Antonio FIRST Robotics Team

This article came across my news feed for robotics, and since it is about a local San Antonio, Texas school and a rookie FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team, I thought I would post it here. Boeing has become a major supporter of FIRST robotics teams here in San Antonio.  In fact, they are supporting three FIRST robotics programs in the city this year.  The other Boeing teams are at John Jay High School and Edison High School. 

The local FIRST Robotics kickoff occurred here this past Saturday, January 9, 2010, at Memorial High School in San Antonio.  St. Anthony was one of 22 teams at the event and is a part of a growing contingent of teams in San Antonio.  With the addition of St. Anthony, there are now eight active FRC teams in the city.  Other SA teams not already mentioned are located in the Edgewood School District, and also at the STEM Academy at Robert E. Lee HS, Brackenridge HS, Sam Houston High School, and Milton B. Lee High School.

Around the world, there are 58 local kickoff events held. The San Antonio event is just one of those that mark the official start of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for about 1800 teams worldwide.  For more information on teams and the kickoff, see the information on kickoff events.

"St. Anthony Catholic High School has announced that its Technology, Robotics and Engineering Sciences Club (TRES Club) was recently awarded a $6,500 Founder's Grant from the Boeing Co. to participate in a regional robotics competition to be held April 1-3 in Houston."  For more information click on the link below.


Recycled Robot Fish Teach Biology

After a holiday hiatus here on RobotNext, the posts return with this one on a robotic fish from recycled materials.  You can see the video at or click on the embedded link below for a small version.  The idea is to teach children about the movements of swimming fish.  I think this also teaches a valuable lesson on recycling materials before they end up in the ocean.  See the link below for the entire story and other videos. 

Recycled Robot Fish Teach Japanese Children About Sealife
Inhabitat (blog)
by MeredithDF, 01/13/10 Floating garbage has found its calling in these incredible sea creature robots hand-crafted by marine scientist and educator

Recycled Robot Fish Teach Japanese Children About Sealife – Inhabitat (blog)
(author unknown)
Wed, 13 Jan 2010 06:14:57 GMT

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