ASMS students turn Power Wheels into robots

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Want to know more about robots? Corey Harrison is your man.

Harrison, a Selma native and a senior at the Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile, has created an anti-landmine robot along with 21 of his fellow classmates as part of their advanced robotics research class.

Known as the “IvenTeam,” the ASMS students have been busy transforming a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep into a robot that detects and unearths landmines. The invention could possibly save thousands of lives. The students are hopeful that the robot can be inexpensively produced and distributed worldwide. ASMS physics teacher Donald Wheeler said the robots could be mass produced for less than $1,000.

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“It’s possible that it could be used in Third World countries,” Harrison said.

If the robot is distributed worldwide, it could save countries thousands of dollars in landmine detection equipment. Currently, anti-landmine robots run as high as $125,000.

ASMS received a $10,000 grant from Lemelson-MIT to fund the project. The school was one of 18 high schools across the country to receive the grant.

Harrison decided to take part in this project because he has an interest in both electrical and computer engineering and hopes to make a career out of his interest.

“I wanted to get experience in the field and experience in teamwork,” Harrison said.

Harrison said he became interested in computers when he was in the eighth grade and since then his interest has been growing.

He’s in the midst of applying to college. He’s looking at Auburn and Olin College in Needham, Mass., 14 miles west of Boston.

“(Olin College) is really good with internships and engineering in general,” Harrison said. Olin College offers undergraduate programs in engineering, electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering, definitely Harrison’s cup of tea.

The project is in its beginning stages and students are working on stripping the Power Wheels Jeep down to its plastic chassis and fitting it with a new steering system.

The prototype robot will house infrared sensors, built from reprogrammed digital cameras and metal detectors to locate buried landmines. The infrared sensors will detect plastic landmines that metal detectors would miss.

A second robot wil be built to roll in and detonate any landmines located by the first robot. Both robots are controlled wirelessly by either a laptop or desktop computer. ASMS students are also writing user-friendly software to control the robots. Harrison began working on the project in October and doesn’t show signs of stopping soon. “(The robot) should be finished by the end of the school year if not before then,” he said.