Originally Published: Monday, 15 October 2001 Author: S.A. Hayes, Linux.com
Published to: develop_articles/Development Articles Page: 2/6 - [Printable]

Linux.com Interview: Mark Micire of the Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue at the University of South Florida.

Mark Micire helps build and deploy the robots used to speed the search for survivors in the rubble of the World Trade Center. The CRASAR Lab that create these remarkable robots use Linux for most of their computing needs. Linux, and the geeks, researchers and professors who use it are speeding the development of critical technologies like USAR Robotics, technologies that help save lives. Linux.com got in touch with this lab in South Florida to get a closer look at who they are, what they do, and what they do it with.

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Linux.com: Can you tell us, for those who don't know, what USAR is and how your lab is involved?

Mark Micire: USAR stands for Urban Search and Rescue. In 1995, our professor, Dr. Robin Murphy, had a graduate student that was certified for search and rescue and went to aid in the rescue after the Oklahoma bombing. The student was then Lt. Col John Blitch with the Army (now retired). He was amazed by the lack of technology and the numerous places that robotic technology could have been utilized. This then became one of the focuses of the laboratory (then at the Colorado School of Mines). When Dr. Murphy came to University of South Florida, she continued her work here while John Blitch went on to become a DARPA funding manager. Through DARPA funding and our close ties to the local county fire rescue personnel, myself and another grad student have been working to become certified in Search and Rescue. This certification allows us to work in the field with the professionals that have been doing search and rescue for years.

Today we belong to a group called the Center for Robotic Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR). If you'd like more details, visit http://www.crasar.org.

Linux.com: Can you tell us about your position in the group?

Mark Micire: I am one of two "hardware support" guys. We are all students at the university, so our time is split (theoretically) between classes and supporting the other programmers in the lab. Just keeping the robots running and modifying them for projects is a full time job. We have five other full time programmers.

Linux.com: Your group is using Linux to help save lives - not just the lives of those who may be trapped in disaster situations, but also the lives of the people who are searching for them. How does that make you feel?

Mark Micire: It is good to finally see that all of this research and training has not been in vain. We have many projects that our lab does outside of USAR to help bring in funding, but USAR has always been the main focus of some of the people in our lab. To bring together technologies like robotics, networking, Linux, and field research is very fulfilling.

Credit for all photo media in this article goes to the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.

The Bombing

Linux.com: How many robots were involved with searching the disaster site of the recent terrorist bombings?

Mark Micire: I'm assuming you are referring to NY. In that case, our group deployed 8 robots total over 11 days.

Linux.com: Is this the most robots used at one time in one location?

Mark Micire: No, but this is the first use of robots in a real disaster to our knowledge. That is a big step for the robotics community, and we're glad to have been here when it happened.

Linux.com: What has been your most remarkable experience being involved with this massive rescue effort?

Mark Micire: Related to robotics: Hearing that the task force we were involved with ordered four of the robots when they got back. We have been patiently waiting for a team to step up to the plate and give these robots a try. For them to order them immediately is very validating.

Related to the disaster: The size and expansiveness of the disaster is probably the most remarkable thing that will stay with me. I know everyone has read and heard this a thousand times, but you really can't get an idea of the size of the disaster without being there and seeing the 360-degrees worth of devastation. I have yet to see a picture or film in the media that captures the gravity of the situation fully.

Credit for all photo media in this article goes to the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue.

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