News

Here come the robots

By Rebecca Brock

Photography By Jake Deuel

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Sandia partners with LANL for 10th annual Robot Rodeo

Competitors from across the country put their skills to the test in a variety of scenarios during the 10th annual Robot Rodeo.

Military and civilian bomb squad teams from across the Southwest saddled up their rescue robots at the 10th annual Robot Rodeo, a lively competition that offers first responders some of the best hazardous-device training of the year. The rodeo was hosted at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) June 14-17 in partnership with robotics researchers from Sandia.

The competition was co-designed by Sandia robotics manager Jake Deuel (6530) and Chris Ory from the emergency response group at LANL. The challenging scenarios are developed to give hazardous-device teams a chance to practice real-world events in a low-risk setting. The simulations included using robots to recover stolen radioactive materials, navigate difficult obstacle courses, operate in confined spaces, and deal with suicide bombers.

One test required operators to get their "fallen" robots back into an upright operational condition.

Celebrating 10 years of a competition that has grown substantially in popularity, Jake says, “The real value of the Robot Rodeo is to protect and train our local first responders. If we can help make them better robot operators for life-like emergency scenarios, we have done a great service. The rodeo has been a 10-year example of Sandia Labs and Los Alamos National Laboratory working together in an outstanding partnership.”

The Robot Rodeo scenarios demanded focus and teamwork from operators.

Hazardous-device teams participating in the 2016 Robot Rodeo included Albuquerque Police Department; Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office; Farmington Police Department; Los Alamos Police Department; Military Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from Kirtland AFB, Holloman AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, and Fort Carson; New Mexico State Police; and a Southern California Regional Team.