DUNCANVILLE, TX – The Duncanville Police Department received a huge gift last year from the federal government: a $10,000 search and rescue robot. Problem was, it didn’t work. Lt. Gene Kropff, commander of the SWAT unit, says the robot would turn on, beep and blink, but officers could not make it function. “We didn’t know what the issue was. The manual tells you how to operate it, not how to fix it,” Lt. Kropff said. His department needed help.
Enter Eika Johnson and her engineering class at Duncanville High School. Lt. Kropff says students have helped the police department on previous projects. They arranged to bring over the robot so some engineering students could take a look. Engineering instructor Ms. Johnson says Adrian Mayberry, a junior in her class, asked if he could try to repair the robot.
Adrian says he took the manuals home. It took him a few hours, but he read them cover to cover. Then he started troubleshooting. Turns out the controller – which happens to belong to an Xbox system – wasn’t communicating with the computer. That had to be fixed. The robot was also having trouble turning, so wheels needed to be replaced. Adrian says he checked over every inch of the device to make sure no wires or contacts were loose, and after taking it on some test runs in the hallways at the high school, the robot was ready to be returned to the police department.
Ms. Johnson says when it came time to give the robot back, it wasn’t easy for Adrian because it had become his baby. She says 17 year old Adrian is an inspiring student. “He has a quiet confidence and he’s hard on himself. He wants to do it the right way, so he takes the time to focus on whatever he wants to do.” Adrian says he appreciates how encouraging Ms. Johnson is. “Ms. Johnson is always telling students to push forward and use what they learn,” Adrian said.
Lt. Kropff says Adrian will have plenty of opportunities to see the robot again. The Duncanville SWAT team still needs him to train them how to operate it. They’re planning to use the robot in situations where officers are in danger, so having that piece of equipment in operating condition is invaluable. Lt. Kropff said, “It means we stay safe because if we have a (possible explosive) device, we can send a robot in to look at it. We don’t have to send in one of our officers.”