HPD adds robot to its lineup

Huntington Police Officer Dale Osborn (center) listens to Huntington Robotics Team THRUST member Samir Shaikh as he operates “Fred” (shown at left) at Hier’s Park on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The robot will be used at police shooting ranges as a moving target.
Huntington Police Officer Dale Osborn (center) listens to Huntington Robotics Team THRUST member Samir Shaikh as he operates “Fred” (shown at left) at Hier’s Park on Tuesday, Aug. 11. The robot will be used at police shooting ranges as a moving target. Photo by Jessica Williams.

Originally published Aug. 17, 2009.

A new member was added to the Huntington Police Department on Tuesday, Aug. 11, but he will help in a different way.

"Fred" is a robot the Huntington County 4-H Robotics team, Team THRUST 1501 (Thundering Herd of Robots Using Student Thinking), built for the police department to use as target practice during shooting drills on the police range.

"He can make our training a little more realistic," says Huntington Police Officer Dale Osborn. "Fred can actually move in all sorts of directions. He will be totally unpredictable to an officer when he tries to take care of the threat.

"Fred will actually get them if they don't get him first. That's a far better deal than it used to be, when you shot at a paper target that always stood still."

Osborn says Fred can take bullets from all sorts of guns, such as shotguns and handguns, and can also move at different distances, pop out unexpectedly and charge and retreat, which will force officers to think on their feet.

This life-like robot can move 180 degrees, go up and down on its base and move around on its four wheels. Its top speed is roughly nine feet per second.

"Once you've trained so many times in just a certain way, it's good to be able to take and make new possibilities and new angles to make things more realistic to how the real world works, and that's what Fred will be able to do," Osborn adds.

The project got off the ground about three years ago when Osborn contacted the robotics team and asked what happened to the robots after the club is finished with them - in hopes of finding a moving target the department could shoot at.

"We said ‘Well, we keep those, but we're more than willing to build you one of your own,'" says Gracie Fowler, the team's student project engineer and a junior at Huntington North High School.

Fowler explains that the team started building the robot just three months ago. The remainder of the time was used to find funding and plan the build. Her role was to organize and lead the project, and help get the word out about its unveiling Tuesday.

The $2,500 robot was built with a United REMC Operation Round-Up grant.

"The project is really not about the robot, it's about giving," says Chris Elston, team president. "It's about the kids and about the engineers in our community that donate their time and their energy and their skills to pass on engineering skills onto the kids, like mechanical engineering and electrical engineering."

Then, he adds, this energy and the skills learned are transferred into the project.

Osborn thinks Fred "is going to work out really well" and he says he's proud of the students and the sponsors.

The core team members are Gracie Fowler, Kaleb Fowler, Julian Erickson, Samir Shaikh, Nick Williams and Jacob Mills.