OH, AND YOUR JOB
IS ON MARS
A bird’s-eye view self-portrait of
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover
Spirit. (Photography courtesy of
On March 17, 2006, NASA named
John Callas as the project manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration
Rover missions. Callas is a scientist at
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) in Pasadena, CA.
“It continues to be an exciting
adventure with each day like a whole
new mission,” Callas said.
That modesty is the epitome of
understatement. For example, one of
Spirit’s six wheels has stopped working. Dragging that wheel, Spirit must
sprint to a slope where it can catch
enough rays to continue operating
during the upcoming Martian winter.
This period of minimum sunshine is
more than 100 days away, but Spirit
gets only enough power for about one
hour per day of driving on flat ground.
And you think that your local
robot competition is tough?
The best spot for Spirit’s “snow
bird” migration is the north-facing
side of McCool Hill, where it could
spend the southern-hemisphere
winter tilted toward the sun just
soakin’ in the fun.
Spirit is currently driving toward
the hill. It has approximately 120
meters (about 390 feet) to go.
Expected progress is approximately
12 meters ( 40 feet) per day.
Jeez, if only we could get someone up there to push that thing, that
would be great. Any volunteers?
ONE OF THE SELECT
LEGO Mindstorms NXT AlphaRex.
(Photograph courtesy of
© 2005 The LEGO Group)
The LEGO Group has officially
released background information
about the selection process for its
new Mindstorms® Developer
Program (MDP). First of all, if you
weren’t selected, don’t feel slighted.
According to LEGO, the MDP is
an exclusive cadre of 100 enthusiasts
who are now charged with “helping
guide the product development
process for LEGO® Mindstorms®
NXT, the next generation of LEGO
A total of 9,610 robotics enthusiasts, ages 18 to 75 years of age and
representing 79 countries responded
to the one-month online application
process that was sponsored by LEGO.
A thumbnail view of the 100 selected
candidates shows that:
• Range in age from 18-75 (50% under
• More than 20% work in the
• Nearly 20% are teachers or
• 13 are architects or engineers
• 40% are from the US
Contributing Editor to SERV
Magazine, Dave Prochnow is one of
the chosen few elected to the MDP.
And, no, Dave isn’t the 75 year-old
MDP member, either. You can expect
to see and read a lot of insider information from Dave starting in the NXT,
err, next issue of SERVO Magazine.
Have you ever thought that you
could talk to the animals? Maybe
even control the flight paths of
butterflies? Well, Dr. Dolittle, Uncle
Sam wants you.
On March 9, 2006, the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) website posted a presolicitation notice for requesting research
proposals in the area of Hybrid Insect
So funny that it’s scary, the notice
states: “DARPA seeks innovative
proposals to develop technology to
create insect-cyborgs, possibly
enabled by intimately integrating
microsystems within insects, during
their early stages of metamorphoses.
“Once these platforms are integrated, various microsystem payloads
can be mounted on the platforms
with the goal of controlling insect
locomotion, sense local environment,
and scavenge power.”
So what did noted bug bot
builder Mark W. Tilden say about this
project? According to Tilden, “We
tried this for years and found that
given perfect digital control, an
organism will still do as it damn well
Got a hankering to bug a bug, get
cracking, the “original response date”
for your proposal submission is June
You can learn more about this
opportunity from the DARPA website,
just look for solicitation BAA06-22 at:
OF ROBOT ABUSE
This just in from iRobot
Corporation Chairman and co-