Focus at Four: Celebrating the technology that helped during Harvey

When disaster strikes, there's a lot of manpower required. Humans can and do help. But what about what humans can't do? What about where humans can't go? That's where technology comes in.

Dr. Robin Murphy knows that better than almost anyone. She's the Texas A&M Raytheon Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and the Director of the Humanitarian Robotics and AI Laboratory, formerly the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) which is now a nonprofit.

Murphy spent 11 days in Fort Bend County during Hurricane Harvey, using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to feed back live video of what was happening in hard-to-reach corners of the floodwaters.

"We actually starting monitoring before the storm hit," said Murphy. "That way we could see how the floodwaters were forming, and the drainage experts could use that information too."

Murphy says that a decade ago, this technology was too expensive for everyone to use. Now, it's not.

"This is the UAV we used, and it only cost $1,000," said Murphy. She says that ideally, all disaster response teams should have this kind of tech on their teams.

Murphy and many other engineers and scientists will be showing off their hard work at RoboWeek on Saturday, April 14, in Downtown Bryan. Details for the event are listed below and in the Related Links. You can also see the full conversation with Murphy in the video player above.

Event Details

Where: SEAD Gallery, 216 W. 26th Street, Historic Downtown Bryan, TX

When: Saturday, April 14, 2018 – 1pm-3pm; keynote at 2pm
The goals of this event are:

* Educate the public about robotics, and more particularly about how unmanned systems can be used for emergency management, and how they were used at Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

* Spark interest in robotics technology by giving community members an opportunity to interact with robots and meet SME's.

* Inspire students to pursue careers in robotics and STEM related fields.

* Provide an opportunity for the local youth to showcase their accomplishments related to robotics and talk about the robotics programs and competitions they are engaged with.

* Raise awareness about CRASAR and encourage community members to get involved with the organization.

* Acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments in the field of disaster robotics through the CRASAR awards, including Ground Rescue Robot of the Year, Aerial Rescue Robot of the Year, and Marine Rescue Robot of the Year.