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(Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)
(Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

Life Trusting Robots Developing on Campus

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There comes a point in one’s life when significance outweighs success. It’s a statement that UNLV’s robotics engineering team goes by as they use their talents and abilities to try to improve society every day.

The mechanical geniuses shared their highly developed drones at the grand opening of the Drones and Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL), pronounced dazzle, on April 23 at the Clark County Library Theater.

With approximately 300 people in attendance, the theater in the library contained many supporters and elite potential sponsors. They came to recognize the many attributes the engineering department can bring to UNLV now, and all of the robots Team DRC-Hubo have constructed already.

Team DRC-Hubo or Metal Rebel is a group of individuals that all specialize in certain areas of robotics and mechanical engineering. Combine each member’s advanced expertise with one another and the Metal Rebel team has the adequacy to technologically change the world as we know it.

With all eyes on Hubo, the team’s semi-autonomous humanoid robot engaged the audience at the lab’s grand opening. UNLV’s DRC-Hubo models the Hubo prototype from the Korean Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST). Hubo demonstrated his capability of interacting with humans as well as his fascinating movements. The robot even picked up a water bottle and handed it to a little girl.

Dr. Paul Oh, the team’s leader as well as the director for DASL, shared his experiences and rationalizations for this whole project at the launch event. The premier roboticist studied mechanical engineering abroad and worked for prestigious engineering companies like Boeing and NASA.

Oh experienced watching his Hubo robot throw the opening pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies game in front of 45,000 people. Now he wants to give driven students the same opportunity to study abroad and learn more than the United States alone can offer. Less than 3 percent of the science and engineering students from the United States go abroad; whereas, over 50% of European and Asian students study abroad.

“We have entered into a new era that is fundamentally going to change our world,” Oh said. “UNLV is a great university that’s about to get even better.”

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Team DRC-Hubo can now focus on generating test runs in a much more effective space. The Metal Rebel team competes in the worldwide DARPA Robotics Challenge from June 5-6 in Pomona, California at Fairplex. They earned a spot as one of the top 25 qualifiers in the world. MIT, Virginia Tech, Hong Kong and China are a few of the expected competitors. The team will have the chance to meet some extraordinary guests attending the challenge, including President Barack Obama and the prime minister of Japan.

The team has to assemble a robot that is able to overcome difficult duties to help possibly save injured humans in dangerous disaster situations. A few tasks include climbing stairs, opening a valve, cutting a hole in the wall with a given tool and even driving a vehicle.

(Photo courtesy of UNLV Photo Services)

(Photo courtesy of UNLV Photo Services)

The DASL benefits the overall preparation and practice for the competition in a numerous amount of ways. The new lab has a model trial run that mocks the real one that will be at the competition.

“We need a long distance area to have a trial in full length,” said undergraduate researcher for the team Elliot Ploutz.

The DASL can potentially boost UNLV and its engineering department into better consideration as a Tier One university. The lab enables the DRC to catalyze action as well as stimulating regional stakeholders.

“This could be a real game changer for the university,” Oh said. “UNLV would definitely be in the world’s spotlight.”

The engineer students can now inquire knowledge to develop a reliable prototype. The possibilities of what can be concocted are endless, especially with Oh and Team DRC-Hubo.

The winner of the DARPA Challenge will receive a prize of $2 million. The second and third place finishers will win prizes of $1 million and $500,000. If Dr. Oh and his skilled team are victorious, they hope to build a 150,000 square foot engineering lab for research and assibilation to be done. Even if their efforts do not prevail, the engineering and research of autonomous robots will not shut down.

Oh already has plans for after the DRC. He wants the team to develop material handling robots and consumer robotics with companies such as MGM Resort. He hopes to create Roboland, a robotics run theme park in Las Vegas. His ideas could ultimately improve Las Vegas’ economy and open many opportunities for people; even outside of the city. Without the passionate efforts of the brilliant Metal Rebel crew and the enhanced laboratory, these ideas are all eliminated.

“I assure you. This is only just the beginning,” said Dr. Mohamed Trabia, professor and associate dean for research, in his moving introduction speech.

For further information on UNLV’s DRC-Hubo team, how to apply to be a part of the crew or just more information about their mission visit or email them at

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