Developed by the robotics team of the Grove School of Engineering, the City-Climber at Work participated in the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s recent 2007 March Madness of the Mind Exhibition.
Assistant Professor Jizhong Xiao of the Electrical Engineering Department is the faculty sponsor of the robotics team, along with Professor Ali Sadegh of the Mechanical Engineering Department. Student members are William Morris, a mechanical engineering student, Angel Calle, an electrical engineering graduate student and Mathew Eliot, a former student.
[Prof. Xiao recently won a National Science Foundation CAREER grant to continue his research on mobile robots. See other story in this issue.]
The robotics team has developed several wall-climbing robot prototypes, named City-Climbers, which can climb walls and walk on ceilings.
The adhesion mechanism adopted in City-Climbers is based on the aerodynamic attraction produced by a vacuum rotor package, which generates a low pressure zone enclosed by a chamber. The technology takes advantage of the merits of both the vacuum suction and vortex technology, which makes a good balance between strong adhesion and high mobility. Since the City-Climber robots don’t require perfect sealing as the vacuum suction technique does, the robots can operate on various wall surfaces, such as brick, concrete, wood, glass, stucco, plaster, gypsum board and metal.
The current City-Climber prototypes can carry a 4.2kg (10 pound) payload and transmit video in real-time for wall inspection tasks.
Several companies have shown an interest in using City-Climber technology in the building inspection and window cleaning industries. At present workers now must often work from suspended scaffolding high above city streets.
“The market value for automated building inspections is huge,” Prof. Xiao told Newsweek magazine.
The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance selects top teams, which consist of college students, faculty and industry mentors, to showcase their work in a science or technology museum, many unveiling their cutting-edge innovations to the public for the first time.
The 2007 exhibition was held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida in March.