UNLV’s ‘Metal Rebel’ to compete in robot competition

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UNLV students have created what looks like something straight out of the movie “Transformers.”

It’s called Metal Rebel and it’s a robot that can walk, roll and even drive. It’s designed to try to take the place of a human working on nuclear and biological disasters.

Metal Rebel, and its creators, will embark on a mission next week to Southern California where the robot will compete against 24 other robots from around the world. The prize is $3.5 million in funding from the Department of Defense.

UNLV is one of only a few universities that have the chance to face off against heavy hitters like NASA’s jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed-Martin and they are among some of the most elite college stem programs in the country.

Along the way, there have been baby steps and a few hiccups

“It’s actually really cool to look at that and be like wow, I’m doing something that’s going to possibly change the world,” said Santiago Ricoy, undergrad robotics student.

Metal Rebel is a humanoid robot who is designed to someday respond to disaster areas too dangerous for humans. It can do human tasks like open doors, turn valves and navigate through rubble.

“It’s just a pretty fantastic first-responder, you know,” said Jonathan Daniels, president, Praxis Aerospace.

“The model behind our lab, is inspiring wonder,” said Paul Oh, UNLV Unmanned Aerial Systems professor.

Oh moved to Las Vegas to head UNLV’s unmanned aerial vehicles program eight months ago. He’s also behind an autonomous robot program and in just six short months, he’s helped elevate the program to the likes of Carnegie Mellon and MIT.

In fact, he believes his team is better than them in the emerging new field of robots driving cars.

“It is something that is so familiar to us, and even to our students, and then that imagination, how could we have a robot actually drive?” Oh said.

That task lies in Santiago Ricoy’s hands.

“I’m the designated driver of our team,” said Ricoy, undergrad robotics student.

He says there’s a lot of pressure to make sure the $10 million robot doesn’t crash out on the course.

Even so, he says it’s a lot of fun.

“People look up and there’s no humans in the car, and this robot’s just coasting on through, it’s got it’s hand on the wheel just turning up the jams kind of thing, it’s weird,” Ricoy said.

Oh hopes his students will learn from the others competing next week and he hopes others will learn from UNLV’s robot, especially its lead foot.

“We hope ours is the fastest, and does it with style,” Oh said.

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