I’ve always had a fascination with robots. I used to spend hours watching Robot Wars as a kid and always dreamt of making my own. However, life got in the way and I never got around to it.
But now, the US government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given me the kick that I need to get my plans down on paper.
DARPA funds research into emerging technologies for national defense in the US and now it’s actually calling on non-government people to come up with some new and innovative robots it can throw the US government’s money behind.
Yes, I also think it sounds a little like they’ve run out of ideas, but hey, if I get to build my dream machine, then who cares?
The agency has teamed up with the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and BIT Systems (BITS) to work on the Robotics Fast Track program (RFT). All you have to do to get involved is draw up a plan for your robot – even if it’s just a rough sketch on a napkin – and submit it on the RFT website.
If they like the look of your plans, you’ll be called to draw up a contract and funding will be given to bring the machine to life.
One tip to get your foot in the door is to look into robots for maritime and space environments. DARPA says it is particularly interested in building hardware for these areas, which is interesting in itself.
The RFT is clear in its intention to really follow through with its chosen projects and the OSRF, which was already running the call for ideas before DARPA’s involvement, has already shown off some grantee’s finished products. 3D printing and scanning, motion planning and robotic spiders seem to have been the winners so far.
Even if you submit a proposal and it gets rejected, the RFT has a process of engaging with people who are applying, so you’ll be told what it was that let your project down. That way you can tweak it and reapply if you’re interested.
➤ Robotics Fast Track program [RFT]