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 crouched into the kneeling position. Robotics teams need to keep thinking outside of the box to develop humanoid robots that aren’t limited by mimicking only human movement, he said.
“It just makes it easier for it to move, and that’s something that we humans can’t do,” he said.