The “Florida Institute of Technology – Capstone Search and Rescue Robot” (FIT/CSRR) is a remotely operated rescue robot capable of search and rescue missions within the interior of an urban debris field that has been created as a result of natural or man-made disaster.
Mechanical engineering student Zackary Lermen said the urban rescue robot is part of an initiative by Harris Corporation to introduce undergraduate students to the systems engineering design approach and interdisciplinary teamwork.
The urban rescue robot, which is wirelessly controlled by a human operator, is designed to enter a debris field in order to enable targeted search and rescue missions. The system is designed to increase the effectiveness and safety of search and rescue operations through live video and two-way audio streaming, which allows survivors to be located and positively identified prior to sending in human rescue teams. Being untethered, the FIT/CSRR is an improvement over most search and rescue robots today that require some form of physical connection to a controller, which can limit the types of movements those robots can make.
“Due to project delays and lead time on parts, the team needed to do a complete redesign,” said Lermen. “This would’ve been near impossible if it weren’t for the systems-based groundwork the team did in the fall semester. The process once thought of as arduous is now seen as a savior.”
The project introduced the team to the systems engineering design approach, a process used heavily in largeby a wide variety of engineering industries.
“By the end of the project, the entire team agreed that FIT/CSRR would not have been successful if it weren’t for the design approach we took,” Lermen said.
Lermen advises students to have all their system requirements defined early on to cut down the number of surprises during the build. His team cut down costs, time and expenses by working tirelessly to define all the internal and external interfaces for the system up front, which led to their first prototype being fully functional.
Lermen said it is important to trust your team, as there is no way to be an expert on everything. He suggests students find subject matter experts to assist their team, and divide the work according to a well-structured design framework to get the most out of their project.
“Student design is imperative to the college experience because it gives students a chance to critically think about the design problem at hand, research the topic, become more skilled in a particular field of engineering and gain hands-on experience from their project,” Lermen said.