Penn, Drexel Among Nation’s Best Robot Builders

NewsWorks reports that Penn and Drexel are among six semifinalists in DARPA Robotics Challenge. The two will compete in December on an obstacle course in which their robots are expected to “climb ladders, walk through rubble and even drive cars.”

Drexel’s entry, “Hubo,” is about the size of a 10-year-old boy. It’s a humanoid—with arms and legs like people.

Paul Oh, who runs Drexel’s autonomous systems lab, has been working on Hubo for years. But for this Robotics Challenge, a team of students from Drexel and nine other schools, including Swarthmore and the University of Delaware, are making Hubo bigger and stronger so it can tough it out in a nuclear disaster zone.

As for Penn:

Penn has partnered with Virginia Tech, and their robot is humanoid as well. It’s named after the Nordic god of thunder, Thor.

According to Lee, all the technology required to build a robo-rescuer exists. Researchers have gotten robots to walk, climb and lift. But bringing all of that research and knowledge together will be a big achievement.

“The level of difficulty they’re asking for in all the tasks is incredible,” Lee said. “Each one of these tasks could be a cutting-edge Ph.D. thesis.”

Just remember: When the inevitable robot revolution comes, you can probably blame the eggheads west of the Schuylkill River.