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Young Scientists with a Chelsea SES Connection

RoDent Is A Big Winner!


Paul Daniel with the younmg scientists

A few weeks ago, Paul Daniel kindly offered to speak to a group of young science students who were participating in an international competition, which sees over 200,000 students from more than 70 countries solve “real-world engineering challenges”.  The students were required to undertake extensive research to identify and solve a problem in the community and, with this year’s theme being “Nature’s Fury”, what better place to go to do some extensive research than their local SES – Chelsea SES.  The local group, who call themselves The Kingston Dominators, were absolutely thrilled with the amount of information they gained from their meeting with Paul, who briefed them on the type of work the SES volunteers undertake during extreme weather events, such as storms and floods, and some of the real challenges that we face.


The LEGO model that became RoDent

As a result of this research, they built and programmed a Lego robot – a robotic rat they affectionately nicknamed RoDENT – that could move through collapsed buildings, and which had a number of sensors on board to help rescuers.  RoDENT is an acronym for Robotics Disaster Emergency Network Communicator.  It has a variety of built-in sensors to detect potential gas leaks, temperature sensor for detecting hotspots (that could signify unforeseen fires), a miniature camera (both IR and visible) mounted on the snout that can provide an internal view of a collapsed building(s) after an earthquake/landslide/extreme weather event.  It also has external LED lights that can illuminate the interior of a damaged building, as well as providing comfort to anyone that may be trapped.  It is powered by a 9 volt battery which powers an arduino microcontroller.  The microcontroller controls the sensors and the miniature legs which are connected to a geared motor.  RoDENT is slight enough to be thrown into a damaged building, or can be dropped (with the use of a parachute) onto the collapsed/damaged building.  It can burrow in a similar way that a rat would burrow, which makes it quite effective.  The design was inspired by an episode from the thunderbirds where this evil scientist was using a mouse to take pictures.  It is also cheap in theory to produce.  It has a built-in transmitter/receiver that can easily operate over 100 metres - even more. but cost would be higher. The LEGO robot that the kids built and programmed can run around and complete missions on a special LEGO mat which is around 2.4 metres by 1.2 metres.  The robot has 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete as many challenges as possible, such as removing a broken LEGO branch from a LEGO tree; moving  a truck containing supplies to people in a safe zone; fixing a damaged building; picking up pets that ran away after a natural disaster and moving them to the safety of people, etc.


The RoDent concept design

There is also a conceptual design of  RoDENT, which is around the size of a coca cola can, that SES volunteers can use to throw into damaged buildings in order to determine the safety or otherwise of a collapsed/damaged structure


Morgan, Natalie & Kiara with their project awards

The Kingston Dominators were mentored by Chelsea member, Desanka Stanley’s  brother, Milorad Cerovac, and the team included her niece Natalie (14), Morgan (14) and Kiera (9). The State Championships were held on Sunday 10th November 2013, and The Kingston Dominators won the Research Quality Award – it was one of only two awards associated with the research project. There was a huge turnout of engineers from BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace but which has merged a number of times with larger companies in the US and Europe), Rockwell Automation and Autodesk. The mayor of Stonnington and the State MP David Southwick, were also in attendance.


Our winners with the Mayor of Stonnington and their School Principle

The group can’t thank Paul enough – he was so generous with his time and the information and knowledge he shared with them was really invaluable.  They were absolutely stoked after they left the unit following their meeting with Paul that Monday night.