To Protect and Serve

Police robots are increasingly becoming a norm nowadays, with many police departments and units adapting technology to better protect citizens. Who could have thought law enforcement would turn to high school students to protect one of the largest, and most volatile, events of the year?

That is exactly what the Cleveland Police's bomb squad did. They tapped 20 local high school kids to build them a bomb-seeking robot in time for the Republican National Convention.

The team from the Youth Technology Academy at Cuyahoga Community College was asked to build the bot, nicknamed "Scoutbot," to rove the grounds around the Quicken Loans Arena.

After encountering the kids at a routine training session at the college, the boys in blue realized they could fill their need for a quick and agile bomb bot. "I wanted something simple, to check suspicious packages, and do it quickly," Sargent Tim Maffo-Judd of Cleveland Police's bomb squad told CNN.

Bomb Bot Lite

Why tap high school kids when the police have their own bomb-sniffing robot? "Our main bomb bot can go up and down stairs, shoot things, and blow things up," said Maffo-Judd. "But it takes 20 minutes to set up."

In contrast, Scoutbot could be up and running in just five minutes. The bot looks more like a modified toy remote-controlled car: the six-wheeled machine is equipped with a 360-degree camera, night vision, and has a range of 400 feet.  It was built mostly of aluminum and some 3D printed parts. The whole robot is only 12 inches tall, 18 inches long, and 6 inches wide, making it perfect for crawling into tight spaces to look for bombs. It was funded by a $500 grant from a Cleveland Police foundation and spare parts from around their workshop.

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