Past Participant Survey
Challenge Team Interim Report
Team Number: 012
School Name: Bosque School
Area of Science: Computer Science
Project Title: Robotic Intervention in Fire Victim Retrieval
Although fire-fighting technology
has consistently reduced the number of structure fires, since 1977, people are
still focused on developing better ways to save human lives in fires. As reported
by the National Fire Protection Association, “3,570 civilian deaths occurred
in 1999, a moderate decrease of 11.5%.” More than 80% of these deaths occur
in the home. The smoke leads to many of the deaths, because it suffocates its
victims. The smoke also inhibits the
firefighters efforts to find victims because it decreases visibility.
Even though firefighters can enter a burning building with oxygen tanks,
they must wait until the smoke clears or they must have expensive thermal imaging
cameras to successfully locate all victims. Firefighters and other personnel
are especially vulnerable when searching for unconscious victims in hazardous
waste disasters. This project focuses on programming and enhancing an autonomous
robot that can quickly locate victims in a fire and alert firefighters with
an audible signal.
Our project is based on the assumption
that the robot is inexpensive to build and can withstand fairly high temperatures.
By equipping the robot with infrared sensors it is not inhibited by poor
visibility due to low light conditions, but we must assume that the infrared
radiation coming from smoke would not interfere with the wavelengths coming
from the victim or the “fire”. The movement of the robot is controlled by proximity
sensors, which must be programmed so that the robot will not miss any areas
within the home. This will require white lines to be placed at each doorway
and that pieces of "furniture" will always be adjacent to one another
and to the wall. Initially a candle will simulate our "fire" so that
sensors can distinguish the difference in electromagnetic radio waves being
emitted from the “fire” and the victim. As we continue to develop our project
we will research methods to overcome this problem.
Progress to date:
First Mrs. Ashmore obtained an example
of the robot, built from an inexpensive kit, originally designed by the Robotics
Club at NM Tech from the summer class taught at the Albuquerque Academy.
We met to learn how the robot was built and how to program it.
We started to test the robot to see how the sensors worked and we found
that one of the connections to one of the proximity sensors was loose. In addition we have been collecting background
information and reports, mainly from the Internet, on uses of robots, robotic
design, competitions, the dynamics of fighting fires and statistics on victims.
Recently we visited New Mexico Tech where Dr. Bruder and Dr. Weiderward
discussed many options for our project with us.
Particularly useful is the website they showed us that includes the specific
information on the infrared sensors describing the wavelengths emitted by humans
and fires. We got a copy of the cross compiler for the robot to use at school.
So, right now we have a working robot, aside from a few modifications.
The program is going to be based on a standard search map algorithm, along with
sub blocks for the infrared sensors and the human recognition.
When completed, we expect the robot
will be able to search through a small model of a house and find a simulated
“unconscious human.” We expect that
when we finish the program, it will have a complex search algorithm that allows
the robot to search all portions of the room. The robot also will use the same
algorithm to avoid fire but still get around to check for victims on the other
side of the fire. After we add a sound generator similar to that on a smoke
detector, the robot will stop and emit a sound when it identifies a victim.
To identify a victim, the robot’s infrared sensors will have to be sensitive
enough to differentiate between the electromagnetic energy produced by human
skin and a candle flame.