MobRob and the Bomb Squad

Oct 2, 2012

Kettering’s Mobile Robotics Club had a chance to help the City of Flint Police Bomb Squad with one of their robots recently.

Milbitz and the Bomb SquadWhen the City of Flint Police Department contacted Campus Safety Chief James Benford about the possibility of getting a repair on a robot used by the bomb squad, he was able to connect them with the A-Section Mobile Robotics Club, or MobRob as they are known around campus.

“The Bomb Squad brought two robots to us Aug. 29 because one of the robots was losing functionality due to rigorous use over a six year period,” said Adlai Milbitz, a senior Mechanical Engineering major from Denton, Texas.

Bomb Squad members brought the robot to Kettering after finding replacement prices and repair costs to be inflated. Since the robot was no longer under warranty, they were willing to let Kettering students try to fix it.

MobRob determined there were “a lot of things wrong with it,” said Milbitz, including needing new batteries, a sheared off camera connector, a broken mount for the main weapon and the laser sighting system and camera system mount was broken.

“We had to research the pros and cons of what type of battery to recommend, replace and install the camera connector, drill and remount the main weapon mounting, replace missing drive train bolts and repair and make an improved bracket the Bomb Squad won’t be able to break off as easily,” Milbitz explained.

In MobRob’s estimation, the robot was a little beat up, but worth rehabilitating. “Its lived a long and full life,” said Milbitz, “but it still has a lot of life left in it.”

MobRob worked on the mobile robot over Labor Day weekend in an attempt to make the necessary repairs and return it to the Bomb Squad as soon as possible.

Milbitz explaining the repairsThey estimated it would take about week to accomplish the major repairs, but they found that machining of some of the smaller pieces took longer than expected.  They were able to accomplish the repairs by the end of the A-Section term Sept. 21.

“It has been really interesting to work on the Bomb Squad robot,” said Milbitz. “Everyone in the club really enjoyed it, especially taking turns driving it around.”

“The Bomb Squad were really accommodating letting us use the working robot they had for comparison,” Milbitz said.

Lt. Collin Birnie, Sgt. Ronald Dixon and Detective Sgt. Devon Bernritter came to campus Sept. 25 to retrieve their robot. They were impressed with the repairs MobRob was able to make.  Milbitz walked them through the repairs and discussed the club’s recommendation on battery replacement for the robot. They said the robot had become all but useless from the damage and that the work MobRob did will extend the useful life of the equipment, saving the Police Department and the city money.

As a thank you to the club, Birnie, Dixon and Bernritter invited the students to tag along to TSA classes in February when they return to campus. Birnie promised there would be lots of explosions, which Milbitz said would be a great reward for their work on the robot.

Dr. Girma Tewolde, assistant professor of Computer Engineering, is the faculty adviser for Mobile Robots Club. In addition to Milbitz, other A-Section MobRob club members include: Luke Partin, a senior Mechanical Engineering major from Kalamazoo, Mich., Jon Wieskamp, a senior Computer and Electrical Engineering major from Oostburg, Wis., Jason Weihman, a junior Mechanical Engineering major from Troy, Mich., Rick Pease, and Electrical Engineering major from Grand Blanc, Mich.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard