Robots in the Wild – Event Recap

On Saturday, January 22nd, Capitol Technology University hosted a Robotics in Disaster and Environmental Research showcase. Speakers from Disaster Aid USA, along with members of the IEEE and the Greenbelt Rotary Club, provided demonstrations of the real-life robotic equipment that is used during disaster situations. Their goal was to discuss the “potency of robotics in disaster relief” and highlight the powerful impact that robotics can have in life-threatening scenarios, as well as the importance of further research in this area of engineering.

Topics of discussion focused on the search-and-rescue and structural assessment benefits of robotics. It was explained that human volunteers are not always a viable option during relief aid procedures, as sufficient recruitment is often not feasible and disaster areas can be difficult or dangerous to reach. Also, robots can provide data feedback through use of sensors to assess the structural integrity of disaster areas, which can inform investigations and lend to future improvements.

Disaster Aid USA Executive Director, Larry Agee, presented his 10 years of experience on supporting the organization, both within the U.S. and internationally. CEO of RFNav, Dr. Jeff Wiley, followed with several demonstrations, including that of futuristic technology using millimeter waves for robotics. Presentations during the “student sessions on robotics” portion of the event were also featured. Student members of the Greenbelt Rotary Club from other local colleges and universities recently provided disaster aid in Bremen, KY after a devastating tornado struck in December 2021, and are planning a return trip later this month with Dr. Vijayanand Kowtha.

Lunch for this event was provided in a unique way, with a hands-on robotics display and outdoor solar cooking demonstration on the Disaster Aid truck located in the parking lot of the Gudelsky Auditorium. This was followed by a discussion on solar cooking led by Paul Arveson from the Washington Academy of Sciences.

In a call-to-action, the Chair of the Washington Region District Governor and Chair of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Dr. Geetha Jayram, challenged students to engage and showcase robotics by joining the Disaster Rotary Action Group (DNA-RAG) and/or the Environmental Rotary Action Group (ESRAG). Dr. Jeff Wiley added that there are internship positions available as well within the RFNav company located in Rockville, MD.

Chair of ESRAG, Dr. Chris Puttock, offered closing remarks, highlighting the need for robotics and detailing the opportunities available for global grants from Rotary International.

The meeting was presided over by Capitol Tech Dean of Academics, Dr. Mitchell Levy. In attendance were community members interested in robotics engineering, as well as Capitol Tech professors, faculty, and students, including Dr. Vijayanand Kowtha, Dr. Charles Conner, Venkata Surya Borra, Gary Burke, Jacky Wershbale, Ryan Schrenk, and Robotics Club President / student Logan Brewer.