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Designing, Building, and Testing an Autonomous Search and Rescue Robot — An Undergraduate Applied Research Experience

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

24.380.1 - 24.380.15



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Paper Authors


Zachary Cody Hazelwood

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Cody Hazelwood is currently a software developer at the Alpha High Theft Solutions division of Checkpoint Systems. He received the B.S. degree in Professional Computer Science from Middle Tennessee State University in May 2013. He currently does freelance projects involving mobile software development, microcontroller applications, and electronics. He enjoys learning about and testing ways to improve people's lives with technology.

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Saleh M. Sbenaty Middle Tennessee State University

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Saleh M. Sbenaty is currently a professor of engineering technology at Middle Tennessee State University. He received the B.S. degree in E.E. from Damascus University and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in E.E. from Tennessee Technological University. He is actively engaged in curriculum development for technological education. He has authored and co-authored several industry-based case studies. He is also conducting research in the area of mass spectrometry, power electronics, lasers, instrumentation, digital forensics, and microcontroller applications.

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Designing, Building, and Testing an Autonomous Search and Rescue Robot — An Undergraduate Applied Research ExperienceIntroductionBurning buildings, collapsed mines, and hostage situations all have one thing in common; theyare dangerous for rescuers. Robots are, therefore, a preferred substitute! Robots can accomplishmany tasks without requiring a human to enter a dangerous location, thereby saving lives. In thepast, robots were not an option due to the high cost involved and the training required to operatethem. However, with modern advancements in technology, robots are becoming increasinglyused in situations and locations that were unthinkable in the past.The objective of this paper is to develop an inexpensive, easy to operate, autonomous robot thatis capable of navigating itself in dangerous situations. This would be a significant project,because it would demonstrate that using robots is not too far out of reach, even for localemergency crews and law enforcement. This project will explore artificial intelligence as itrelates to self-guided robots, microcontroller programming and code optimization, wireless videostreaming, and remote control using a smartphone’s accelerometer. Upon the project’scompletion, the plan is develop a very simple to use robot capable of driving itself through abuilding while sending a video feed from a user-controllable camera back to the smartphone.Project BackgroundCarnegie Mellon University is on the forefront of research for Search and Rescue robots. One ofthe most notable developments is the Snake Robot (also known as a hyper-redundant robot). Therobot was developed as a result of requirements developed during robot use for September 11,2011 search and rescue efforts. A trained K9 would go in and drop off the robot, and then ahuman operator would control the robot based on the video feed sent back wirelessly.The National Institute of Standards and Technology is also doing research on Search and Rescuerobots. They have a created a competition with three arenas of varying difficulty. Participantsare required to navigate through the arenas to complete tasks without damaging the environmentor the manikins. With careful data collection and observations of these competitions, they areable to explore the variety of robot implementations, the pros and cons of each implementation,and human and robot interactions. Researchers are able to use the data collected to learn aboutand improve situational awareness, which is essential for robot autonomy.According to the Springer Handbook of Robotics, there is a lot of work to be done inautonomous robotics for search and rescue. Due to the unpredictability of the environmentsencountered in disasters, better programming algorithms and better sensors need to be developed.Also, a proper balance needs to be struck between full autonomy and user control. Currentsearch and rescue robots require hours of training for humans and animals.This applied research project is being conducted and funded as a part of the undergraduateresearch experience at ____________. The educational experience and benefits will be alsodiscussed.

Hazelwood, Z. C., & Sbenaty, S. M. (2014, June), Designing, Building, and Testing an Autonomous Search and Rescue Robot — An Undergraduate Applied Research Experience Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20271

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