MIT Professor Woodie Flowers shows off Atlas Devices rope climbing robot

Whew! I have just recovered from helping out at the Boston FIRST Regional that took place over the weekend (see our previous coverage of FIRST). The Regional was a celebration of science and technology, and especially of robotics -- we had air, land, and sea unmanned vehicles stationed in the lobby, Roombas cleaning the floors between matches, and of course, the 51 competing robots. There was also a special entrance by MIT Professor Woodie Flowers, one of the co-founders of the FIRST program and an all around excellent guy.

What Woodie is hanging on to is a robot from Atlas Devices. It's designed for the military to use to rapidly ascend and descend ropes safely -- from their website, "Its powerful lifting capacity can directly hoist fully-loaded soldiers or firefighters at unprecedented speeds. Utilizing the ATLAS with standard rescue equipement can magnify its capacity even more, enabling effective lifting and towing capacities in excess of 1,000 lbs." Woodie was trained on it on Wednesday evening and it seemed like a pretty shallow learning curve. It's all fun and games watching it descend, but it's when it ascends (so smoothly and quickly) that it looks really impressive. Here are a few more videos for your pleasure.

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