Student invents Robo-Cop that shoots back

4/10/2007 7:00:00 AM

Local law enforcement officials will have to be a little more careful on the shooting range now that they have a robot that fires back.

Thanks to the collaboration of the mechanical engineering department, Officer Eric James and the team at University Police Services, the new radio-controlled target rover is the first of its kind in Northern Nevada.

"This is great because too much of a police department's firearms training is static," James said. "The majority of police officer confrontations happen within 10 feet or less, and the officer has a moving suspect. This rover goes 5-8 miles per hour, has a 360-degree turning capability and a paintball gun at knee level for realistic engagements."

James spoke with associate professor Eric Wang last year about the possibility of a target rover, and one of Wang's students, Mike Oehlert, constructed the robot.

"Mike did a great job," Wang said. "He's an engineer for IGT now, so it's that much more impressive he was able to do this project as an undergrad. Basically, we had the chassis and a few parts and he just took it from there."

James said similar robots used in target practice can cost up to $12,000, but with Oehlert's resourcefulness and utilization of spare parts, this one was built for about $226.

"Our University is a very valuable resource," said James, who is also a member of the Washoe County SWAT Team and plans to use the robot for sniper practice as well. "We're lucky these people stepped up to help their community and that's the general attitude we see all the time from faculty, staff and students. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be able to step ahead in this way and change the way we train and operate."

In the future, James is interested in putting a small camera on the robot so officers can review their movements and reactions to the rover's offensive moves. And, at some point, James said he will utilize a few three-dimensional mannequins on the robot to provide even more realistic targets.


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