Robots to the Rescue!

"If a skier is buried in an avalanche, they have a very short time to be rescued. Me and my team designed a robot prototype that will help find and start performing immediate rescue aid to a buried skier. We hope that this prototype, if it works, could be mass produced and scattered over an avalanche slope to find the buried skier quickly so human rescuers could go strate [straight] to the skier and help him," wrote a grade 6 student at Elbow Park School.

Students testing robotThe teams had to get a searching robots to find a skier and signal the buried skier's location to another team's robot. The second robot that had the "heavy and expensive rescue equipment" and would bring that to the location signaled by the searching robot.

Bluetooth communication required a lot of cooperation between groups and a lot of patience. The old robots could send one number using infrared mail but with Bluetooth you can send up to ten different values (including text) into different mailboxes.

The rescue robot had to start the communication and was the "boss". Once the searcher robot got a message from the rescue robot, it started searching by going up a number of lines (these we thought of as the human rescuers' ski poles) and turned 90° to start searching. If it found a skier, it would back up and send:

  • the number of ski poles (the x axis)
  • the number of rotations of the right wheel (the y axis)

The searcher then got out of the way without running over the skier and the rescuer had to get to the skiier to start rescuing using the x and y coordinates.

Notes: While the communication worked fine during the first few classes, the constant linking and re-linking of the robots became a chore and was not reliable. During the demonstration, the students copied the coordinates to the rescue robot.