Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) researchers have revealed they are conducting research using a Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog to help in the often-perilous conditions found during mine emergencies.
University senior Dustin Peterson recently supported a research project entitled “Research, Technological Innovations and Human Factors for Effective Miner Self-Escape from Underground Mine Emergencies,” part of a $4 million cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) with assistance from professor Kwame Awuah-Offei.
Work is still ongoing, but was first a focus for Peterson between March and December 2022. Awuah-Offei, chair of mining and explosives engineering at S&T and one of the project’s co-principal investigators, then requested Peterson’s assistance.
“Most of Peterson’s research for this project was qualitative, as his focus was on listening to the perspectives of miners about the potential to use the four-legged Boston Dynamics Spot robot dog in their escape,” the school noted.
On April 6, Peterson will present some research findings during the University of Missouri System’s Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo.
The graduating student said his work involved interacting with several focus groups of industry professionals.
“We hosted Zoom meetings before the groups went down into the mines and asked them to discuss what different uses they could envision for the Spot robot for emergency situations,” he added. The primary uses that became a theme in Peterson’s research included having the Spot robot navigate ahead of miners after an emergency, such as a mine collapse, to find safe escapeways.
Peterson, one of the school’s mine rescue team members and a robotics enthusiast, said the research work was a natural fit for him.
“Just imagine how dangerous of a situation it could be for miners who are trapped,” he said.
“The robot could help them. It could go into areas that humans could not access. It could have a thermal camera. It could have a gas monitor. There are several beneficial possibilities.”
Awuah-Offei said he knows Peterson will have the skills necessary to make a positive impact on the mining engineering field.
“Dustin has gained invaluable hands-on experience while a student at Missouri S&T,” he says.
“He has been an effective student researcher and has worked in the mining industry both through our cooperative education program and as an intern.”
Upon graduation, Peterson is set to become a full-time management associate with Martin Marietta in Kansas City.