Robotic platforms are "going viral" at high schools and universities around the world, says Mark Newby, cofounder of Hanover, Massachusetts-based Gears educational systems.

The eight-year-old company (booth 3234) sells a variety of rugged ground platforms that allow users to mount their own sensors and microcontrollers (or the company can supply those as well). Their claim to fame is that the aluminum chassis are more rugged than plastic-based systems, so students and researchers "can spend more time integrating sensors and microcontrollers" and less time replacing parts, Newby says.

The company sells sophisticated, articulating chassis such as the $1,500 Surface Mobility Platform, which is able to make its way across rough terrain, all the way down to the Heavy Metal Chassis, a simpler foundation aimed at younger students. The pricetag for that system starts at just $399. There's also a Robot Starter Kit retailing for just $229.95.

Newby said Gear's systems have found a home at schools around the world, including universities in Japan, Qatar and Spain. In Qatar, students used the ground robots to study sea turtles at night, monitoring the turtles without disturbing them. Professor James Conrad at the University of North Carolina has a requirement that students program the robots to follow them around campus. "It's created a lot of buzz," he said.

As more students see the robots, more schools want to work with them, he said.

"It's been very viral," Newby said. "Universities around the world are coming to us looking for this."

Source: Flight Daily News