In honor of National Robotics Week (April 8-16), CTEH recently introduced elementary school students in Little Rock to Spot the Robot Dog, and showed them how robots like Spot play an integral role in their work. 

Jonathan Barket, a Senior Software Developer for the CTEH team, took Spot to Lisa Academy’s Arkansas STEM Festival. Schoolchildren got an up-close-and-personal look at Spot and learned how Spot helps CTEH get data faster, more accurately, and with increased safety and risk reduction when responding to an environmental disaster. 

Boston Dynamics created Spot, a four-legged, doglike robot that joined the CTEH team in 2020. Spot is an unmanned vehicle that is easily controlled and can operate alongside regular personnel during disaster response. Spot can go anywhere a human can – up and down stairs, across unsteady terrain and rubble, and more – and can also carry equipment and communicate with other forms of technology. Because it is controlled by a computer, Spot can easily be adapted to meet the demands of a specific response. Barket has designed and developed specialty programming and sensor packages to grow Spot’s capabilities well beyond a simple conveyance. For instance, Spot can collect air samples and provide real-time air sample readings, identify the presence of known personnel and equipment in an area, and so much more. 

Barket regularly takes Spot to schools to help students engage with this fascinating technology and see firsthand the impact of robotics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). His visit to Lisa Academy was part of the 9th annual Arkansas STEM Festival, whose mission is to expose Arkansas youth to the “exciting and engaging world of STEM and to ignite their interests and motivation for these disciplines.” For CTEH, this visit also celebrated National Robotics Week (RoboWeek), which seeks to inspire students in robotics and STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages. 

While Spot is certainly exciting to watch, this good bot does critically important work. Spot provides new ways for CTEH to evaluate the safety of environments, protecting both community members and CTEH personnel. The robot represents the forefront of technology, demonstrates to students the possibilities that exist in robotics and other STEM-related fields, and inspires the next generation to do even greater things.