Bomb squads sharpen skills in robot rodeo
Six teams guided robots through 10 challenges, including making pancakes.
Sun, May 30, 2010 at 03:23 PM
TAKE A BYTE: A cooking robot named “MOTOMAN” also made pancakes during the International Robot Exhibition 2009 in Tokyo in 2009. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Bomb squads from around New Mexico got a chance to sharpen their skills by using a remote-controlled robot — not to blow things up, but to make pancakes.
The Robot Rodeo was held last week at a tech site at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The three-day event offered hours of hands-on training at the controls of $225,000 robots used for bomb and hazardous waste detection and disposal.
Six teams guided robots through 10 challenges, including an obstacle course, simulated attacks, cooperation exercises and activities to test their ability to minutely control the robot, said Chris Ory, a member of Los Alamos lab's hazardous devices team.
Controlling the robot was where pancake-making came into play.
Teams from the state police and Santa Fe Police Department controlled robots while watching video monitors from vehicles parked outside a small building where two judges sat, ready with syrup and butter to taste their pancakes.
Tables on either side of the room held griddles, pancake mix in a pitcher and a spatula. Each team had to mix the batter, then cook four pancakes and bring two plates to the table.
Judges Valine Griego and Erica DeSmett, coordinators from Sandia National Laboratory, rejected the state police robot's creation.
"It's only cooked on one side," Griego said.
Jose Salazar, the state police bomb squad assistant commander controlling the robot, also sampled the pancake.
"I'm glad it's pancakes and not public safety," he said.
On the Santa Fe team, Officer Scott Waite painstakingly maneuvered the robot through the pour and flip.
Waite scooped the pancake from the side for the flip. He lucked out when his second pancake broke in half during the flip, so he created two pancakes out of one.
The robot delivered the first plate perfectly.
Griego, DeSmett and honorary judge Mary Salazar, a Los Alamos lab intern, poured syrup and took their bites.
Salazar pronounced the pancakes "pretty good."
Copyright 2010 AP News