Newsroom

Excerpt:
The following is from the July 10, 2007, edition of The Dallas Morning News


A little battered but back at SMU

After last-minute work, robot that was stolen will head to competition

Related Links:

 • SMURobot blog (features updates from the competition)

 • Dallas Morning News: SMU swimming robot stolen from car

 • 2007 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition

By HOLLY K. HACKER
The Dallas Morning News

UNIVERSITY PARK – Its mast is broken and batteries are missing. But Seahorse 1, the submarine robot that was kidnapped days before an international competition, has returned home.

"It's a relief," said Nathan Huntoon, a graduate engineering student and member of Southern Methodist University's Robotics Club. "At the same time, now we have a lot of work that we need to do."

Seahorse 1 was abducted Saturday night from a Toyota parked south of campus. Team member Andrew Murphy discovered the crime [it was his fiancée's car], alerted Dallas police and offered a $500 reward.

Seahorse 1 in the Dedman Center pool
Above, Seahorse 1 takes a trial run in the pool at SMU's Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports. The stolen submersible was returned July 9 by three Dallas youngsters who found the discarded robot while mowing their grandmother's yard. Below, SMU Robotics Club members assess the damage to their creation.

SMU Robotics Club members with the rescued robot

"Just bring it back. You're not going to get $500 for it anywhere else," Mr. Murphy said at a news conference Monday.

The robot was to participate in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition, which runs Wednesday through Sunday in San Diego. Without Seahorse 1, nicknamed Yellow Submarine for its bright-colored casing, Mr. Murphy scrambled to start building Seahorse 2. He called suppliers across the country and asked them to send hobby batteries, a digital compass and other exotic parts overnight. SMU's engineering school offered to help pay.

Police received word Monday afternoon that some kids had found Seahorse 1 in a duffel bag in an alley behind a house in the 1600 block of Panama Place, near Interstate 45.

"Somebody was mowing his grandmother's yard and thought it was a bomb," Mr. Huntoon said. Police returned the robot to campus shortly after for a joyful reunion with club members. The woman's three grandsons stand to get the $500 reward.

Seahorse 1 is listed in fair condition at SMU. Mr. Huntoon said club members would know the robot's prognosis after some tests Monday night.

"There was some damage done to the outer hull, and unfortunately they kept some of the other pieces that we need," he said.

Seahorse 1 could well be stronger than before when it heads to San Diego. For instance, Mr. Murphy built a new casing for the replacement robot with fewer holes, making it less prone to leaks.

This will be SMU's first time in the underwater robot contest. The robots must navigate five submerged obstacles, including a gate and flashing lights, on their own – hence the "autonomous" part of the competition. SMU will face perennial powerhouses like MIT, Cornell University and the University of Texas at Dallas.

But SMU team members don't want to put too much pressure on Seahorse 1. They don't expect to take first place in their first year, though winning "Best New Entry" would be nice.

Meanwhile, Seahorse 1's captor remains at large. The police offered to dust it for fingerprints, but the students declined.

"They didn't want that," Sgt. Jamie Matthews said. "They just wanted the robot back."

Read the full story.

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