Wallter, Wall-crawling Robot

January 31, 2006

For the second year in a row, a two-and-a-half-pound robot named Wallter, designed by Pratt School of Engineering students, won an international wall-crawling robotics competition held in London.

Wallter competed against robots created by university teams from the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy this year to win a $900 prize at the eighth International Conference on Climbing and Walking Robots. Each team's robot was required to move from the floor to a magnetic wall, move around obstacles on the wall, cross a raised bar, and then stop at the ceiling.

The conference and competition are intended to stimulate design innovation in wall-crawling robotics that can be used for security and safety-related jobs such as looking for cracks in a support beam or finding improvised explosives.

Smaller than a phone book, Wallter hugs the wall using a suctioning "tornado in a cup" produced by a spinning blade. The suction system was designed by Vortex HC, LLC, the team's sponsor, based in Morrisville, North Carolina. Magnets enable Wallter to stay on the wall while crossing the raised bar. The robot uses three ultrasonic sensors to detect and avoid obstacles, and is programmed to distinguish between an obstacle and the ceiling.

The Duke team that traveled to London for the competition included Brian Hilgeford, a senior in mechanical engineering; Gareth Guvanasen, a sophomore in computer science and electrical and computer engineering; Jamaal Brown B.S.E. '04; and Brian Burney, a former Pratt staff member who is now an N.C. State University graduate student and an employee at Vortex HC.