COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS – At first glance, it looks like a toy or a classroom model of a chemical element. However, this colorful little device holds much more than that inside. It is actually a high-tech device made by Squishy Robotics, and its sensors can detect dangerous gases and send reports and camera footage to a command post a quarter of a mile away. Moreover, the devices can be thrown or dropped from unmanned aerial systems into danger zones, minimizing human risk and exposure to hazards. The robots are semi-disposable; they can be reused, but they need de-contamination if they come into contact with dangerous gases.
When Squishy wanted to test its data communication systems, the Texas A&M University System brought together its various entities, including Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) Testing and Innovation Center (TT&IC), the Texas A&M Internet 2 Technology Evaluation Center (ITEC), the Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC) and Texas A&M Task Force 1 (TX-TF1). They wanted to ensure critical information about environmental hazards could be sent from the robot to a safe zone at least a quarter of a mile away, where emergency managers would monitor the situation. They tested these systems in multiple operationally realistic environments: on a refinery prop, storage tanks and a train derailment prop at TEEX’s Brayton Fire Training Field and Disaster City and in the BCDC’s subterranean tunnel complex at Texas A&M-RELLIS.
TT&IC Director Ray Ivie says, “When we bring all of the capabilities of the A&M System together, we can utilize the ranges, people and subject matter expertise of the different entities. This allows us to create an environment for testing that spans the entire system and is something other universities and military ranges don’t have.”
An unbiased panel of subject matter experts, including HazMat and rescue professionals from Florida, California and Texas, was onsite to provide feedback during testing. Additionally, the TT&IC is preparing a TEEX-Tested® report assessing the data communication system’s functionality.
Colonel (USA Ret) Brian McHugh of BCDC at RELLIS said, “This event was, hopefully, the first of many partnered efforts between System members. It is vitally important for us to establish and strengthen collaborative and transparent relationships that allow us to leverage System members’ expertise and capabilities. This ultimately benefits our partners and customers and enhances the Texas A&M University System’s reputation.”
Of the collaboration, Squishy Robotics COO Deniz Dogruer said, “Testing the data communications capabilities of our sensors in a variety of operationally relevant environments at TEEX Disaster City and Texas A&M-RELLIS was invaluable to our efforts to continually improve our technology to meet the very challenging needs of first responders. The multi-day testing—motivated by specific use cases and conducted in conjunction with the guidance and feedback from a panel of subject matter experts—provided a truly unique testing capability and will produce results that will be directly relevant to the public safety community.”
TT&IC offers developmental assessments and TEEX-Tested assessments to test public safety products and solutions in operationally realistic environments. They will continue collaborating with A&M System entities to test and improve new technology for public safety and first responders. Learn more at https://teexinnovation.com/.
UPDATE: February 19, 2024 – TEEX has published the TEEX-Tested report for Squishy Robotics. To review the report, visit TEEX Tested Reports – TEEX Testing & Innovation Center.
Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service
Vita Vaughn | Director of Marketing and Communications/CMO