Thanks for this @Elizabeth! The success of the DARPA Grand Challenge series has resulted in the Google Self-driving automobile. Now the DARPA Robotics Challenge should result in similar successes.
While NASA unfortunately grew into a bureaucratic behemoth which ultimately suffocated under its own weight, DARPA continues to innovate and evolve the concept of crowd-sourcing. While the crowd was previously limited to the research and development shops of contractors, they have continued to expand the crowd to include universities, non-defense contractors, and even private citizens and enthusiasts. While NASA sought to perfect Management, DARPA continues to perfect Leadership -- a leadership model that defines forward-looking goals and then encourages others to use their own talents and resources to innovate toward that goal.
I can only hope that this type of Leadership in our government institutions is contagious.
As we suffer the employement dirge in this political climate, there are so many fields in which engineers could not only make a difference but define the next evolution of technology. This article illustrates how we can utilize our skills to solve another interesting problem, but there are so many more problems we face today. And think of the jobs that could be created if only a small percentage of these ideas come to fruition! Think of the computer generation started in a garage and kitchen table. Look at the progression of integrated circuits from resistor-resistor logic to SOAC (systems on a chip). There are opportunities in security, communications (like the whole cell tower thing is really working out! "Can you hear me yet" still has a resounding "NO!"), medicine, affordable space travel, transportation, and a myriad of other fields that have not progressed as sci-fi predicted in the middle 20th century while so many other things have.
So, DARPA (citizen-funded research, not Presidential largess-funded research) has given us another challenge. Thanks for the good idea, DARPA!
Nice article, Elizabeth. I'll bet this competition will provide a number of impressive entries. I think it's particularly notable that DARPA is willing to provide equipment for contestants. That could boost submissions from individuals and educational entities.
Several years ago, a company called Vecna Technologies developed a robot called The Bear (battlefield extraction assist robot), which could attach itself to a ground vehicle, ride out to a battlefield, get off the vehicle, find a casualty, and load a wounded soldier onto a stretcher. It could even find the soldier inside a building and carry him/her down a set of stairs. But building a cheetah-like robot that breaks the land-speed record is another matter. It's a testament to how fast this technology is developing.
While it is certainly true that designing robots of any kind would be a job-creating activity, it is not likely that anybody able to do that work is unemployed. That is part of the problem.
The other part is that those who could quickly adapt to designing robots but who are unemployed will not even be considered for those positions. That is because of the bias against unemployed engineers. I found this out when I tricked an agency person into admitting the bias. It did take quite a bit of discussion with her, and after she admitted it about one position, she blurted out that it was common, and most of the companies that she worked for had the same instructions concerning those unemployed.
Boston Dynamics, the company that produce the record-breaking cheetah robot, has also created a DARPA-funded humanoid robot, Petman, to test chemical protection clothing. This robot recently learned to climb stairs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oHiB8AzSpA
William K. My company came across an unusual scientific discovery and called Darpa. They asked for the corporate name, street address and telephone number. After writing down the conpany name the woman asked for the street address and we gave them our corporate POB address in Dallas, there since 1987. This very curt female at DARPA told us that we would have to provide a STREET address and phone number to the street address sight. I told her we distribute the mail from our box to various sights and there are no land lines used in the corporation since we updated to an all cellular syatem in 06. She became very rude and told me she was blocking my number inbound.
I found this quite vindictive and not too smart since the U.S. Army was a customer as was the USAF, Navy and TXANG; and the company has a lots of cell phones from numerous exchanges allover the country. So William R. don't let it get to you; it is a government agency that people rotate thru on a 3 year basis and no matter what they tell the public during their University Presentation Programs you need to consider whats good for you before giving themANY INFORMATION from your knowledge base. PS DON'T SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT A LAWYER; IF they want it LET THEM COMPETE TO BUY IT ON YOUR TERMS!
Ann, you must not have had any battle experience around stairs. Going up stairs into an unknown area under hostile fire is quite an experience, and a robot that could run up those steps under fire would be straight out of some wild cartoon, except that if it was real it would be one moster soldier, even if it was short and cute. And just think how creepy a small robot with a minicannon would be running up into fire.
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