William Provancher, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah has created a “swinging” robot called ROCR (pronounced: rocker), which scrambles up a carpeted, 8-foot wall in just over 15 seconds. According to the university’s announcement, Provancher’s robot is the first climb efficiently and move like human rock climbers or monkeys that swing through trees. Two claws on the body grab onto a wall and a motor controls a pendulum tail. Read the entire story on the U of U Web site at: www.unews.utah.edu/p/?r=080310-1. This site provides links to other photos and to two videos and technical information.
“While this robot eventually can be used for inspection, maintenance and surveillance, probably the greatest short-term potential is as a teaching tool or as a really cool toy,” says Provancher. Until now, most climbing robots were designed not with efficiency in mind, only with a more basic goal: not falling off the wall they climb. “While prior climbing robots have focused on speed, adhering to the wall, and deciding how and where to move, ROCR is the first to focus on climbing efficiently,” said Provancher.
This robot research, funded by the National Science Foundation and University of Utah, also involved Mark Fehlberg, a University of Utah doctoral student in mechanical engineering and Samuel Jensen-Segal, a former Utah master’s degree student now working as an engineer for a New Hampshire company.
The world has few carpeted walls to climb, but this type of robot equipped with, say, controlled suction cups and a supplemental climbing mechanism to get over the mullions and muntins, might work nicely at washing windows. If it encounters trouble, it could simply parachute to the ground. Better than having window washers stuck on a collapsed platform up 42 floors. Equipped with electromagnets, this type of robot could inspect vertical walls of storage tanks. –Jon Titus