Team Member Spotlight: Paresh Brahmbhatt

Comic books, anime, video games, and science fiction novels by Isaac Asimov are some of many things that motivated young Paresh Brahmbhatt, Chief of Support Unit for DRC-Hubo team, to earn his Ph.D in engineering and work on humanoids. Creating and working on technology to aid humans is his ultimate goal, accompanied with his childhood dreams and ambitions to visit space and be able to live on a different planet. “I’ve always thought it’d be cool to go to a different planet and build a place to live, so instead of me doing the work, I can send robots.” He tries to enjoy this planet before humans are able to live somewhere else. Brahmbhatt enjoys snowboarding every year, and visits a new state to snowboard every winter. Working on Hubo, he realized that any robot would not be perfect unless its creator realizes that it does not need to replicate the image of humans, and having an anthropomorphic robot conflicts with its main purpose. “Humanoids should not serve as an egocentric idea, it is here to help and should look like it can do more than us.” Brahmbhatt said. He added that people misunderstanding robots- is expected, however, he encourages people to read more about the technology and learn the pros and cons before judging and fearing...

Team Member Spotlight: Youngbum Jun

Growing up, Youngbum Jun never thought about becoming an engineer, instead, he wanted to be an actor. But after completing his undergraduate program, he developed an interest in robotics. That passion soon turned into a Ph.D. in technical engineering and a chance to work on robotics on an international scale. “I am really eager to participate in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, even if we don’t win, this will be a great experience.” said Youngbum Jun, a UNLV research scientist who is the team lead on planning and control systems for the robot. This isn’t Jun’s first time competing with the robot, however. He was part of Paul Oh’s team at Drexel University. This original DRC-Hubo team competed at trials in Miami in December 2013. The team did not earn enough points to qualify to the next round, but DARPA decided to give the team a chance to participate in the robotics finals this June. “We implemented our research concept, applying practical applications and that’s what impressed them; we focused on implementing our research rather than completing tasks to gather points only,” Jun said. After the Miami competition, Oh was hired at UNLV as Lincy Professor for Unmanned Aerial Systems and asked Jun and two others if they’d go with him to UNLV and work on the Hubo robot and continue the journey to the finals. Now, Jun is working on different applications, with the goal of having a fully autonomous robot to reach full autonomous system, however, the technology available is limited to only half autonomous system. He believes that very soon robots will work in areas where humans...

Team Member Spotlight: Jon Daniels

Jon Daniels says he has been a nerd since birth, but what really sparked his love for robotics was a ’70s science fiction movie, Silent Running. After watching the movie, he knew he wanted to make human lives better and help others using robots. “I have four daughters, but only one thinks I’m a cool dad: my youngest who is an inspiring robotics engineer,” said Daniels who is the chief of staff on UNLV’s DRC-Hubo team and CEO of Praxis Aerospace. Daniels also is an adjunct instructor teaching courses that are part of the minor in unmanned aircraft systems, offered by the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering. “Robots are awesome,” he says, “They can placed in a box near a power station or a nuclear power plant and as soon as a natural disaster occurs, robots can serve as an immediate first response. When human rescuers arrive, robots will have detailed reports about what happened and what steps should be taken next to continue with the rescue process without risking the lives of human rescuers. Because they can drive, fly and transport themselves, they will be very accessible and easy to relocate.” Daniels jokes with his team to place tyrannosaurus-like arms on the robot. He believes that robots should have what humans don’t have and this should include a set of smaller arms that could be used to grab the steering wheels and drive, instead of exhausting their long arms. Daniels said one advantage the DRC-Hubo robot already has over human are wheels that are placed on the robot’s knees. This allows the robot to move quickly while...

Team Member Spotlight: Maria Ramos

As a kid, Maria Ramos loved watching sci-fi movies with robots as the main character, then she realized she wanted to work on robots and be at the forefront of the industry instead of just following the technology. Maria is the first in her family to earn a college degree and work on such prestigious project. She hopes one day she can give back to her family for all the support they’ve given her. Maria is the Chief of the Public Affairs unit for the UNLV robotics team and is working on her Ph.D in mechanical engineering. She loves listening to music from all over the world, plays the cello, considers herself a good pianist, and teaches herself other instruments. She enjoys the cheers in karaoke bars as she gets up to sing, whether singing with her friends or in front of a big crowd, “it really isn’t that bad singing in front of a big crowd on a stage, even when your voice isn’t great.” Aside from HUBO being able to achieve multiple tasks, Maria wished it were able to speak as well. “Let’s say there’s a building on fire and a robot is going to help, instead of just seeing a machine, I think people would be calmer if the robot talked to them and assured them that it’s here to help.” Ramos, who is in charge of community outreach for the team, said making technology available for everyone to experience will fix misconceptions about robotics. Allowing people to interact with the technologies and learning from engineers about the capabilities of robots will help ease fears, she...

Team Member Spotlight: Kiwon Sohn

Even at a very young age, Kiwon Sohn developed an interest and fascination toward robots. Assembling toy robots was one way for him to discover how they worked. “At the age of seven my mother would buy me one robot everyday. I would take it apart and assemble it again. I would try to assemble the robot every night until I fell asleep, then throw it away, and get a new one the next day.” Sohn said. His parents encouraged him to be an engineer, not necessarily working in robotics. However he believes they had an indirect impact on his career and love for robotics. As the Chief of Engineering Unit for team DRC-Hubo@UNLV working on humanoids – human inspired robots to help and protect humans in disaster sites and situations- Sohn said he understands that everyone has a vision and a way of executing an idea on the robot, so his job is to connect everyone’s ideas to reach the best design and most efficient programing for the robot before the DARPA Robotics Challenge. He believes that humanoids would work better if they had muscles. The rigid bodies of the robots limit their movement and performance. Sohn hopes that people understand that humanoids are created to replace human responders in disaster situations. He worries that the public has the wrong idea about humanoids. Some believe that the robots are unsafe or that the robots will turn against humans. Sohn said both are misconceptions. “The main purpose of these humanoids is helping people during times of disasters, our goal is to help people, not create a weapon against them....