Oconee Nuclear Station’s beloved four-legged friend is continuing to learn new tricks and win hearts – at the nuclear plant and in the classroom. “Spot,” now affectionately known as “Atom” at Oconee, is now one of two dog-like robots at the site that help nuclear employees find innovative ways to make tasks, inspections and job functions even safer.
These dynamic robots are also catching students’ attention at local school events and classrooms – allowing youngsters to connect advanced technology with real-life, local career options.
“It is nice to see the young generation find interest in the nuclear industry,” said Duke Energy Radiation Protection Specialist Bobby Leigh. “They will possibly be the future workforce that will support nuclear as we move into midcentury operation, and advanced nuclear technologies, as well.”
Leigh has taken Atom to schools to allow students to see and learn about this advanced technology. The students are able to “drive” the robot using the remote control, similar to a gaming device. With the latest advances in self-awareness and collision avoidance, and with camera and audio controls, the user can steer while the robot maneuvers itself within its environment.
At a recent STEM event for children in Oconee County, Leigh was able to demonstrate the robot’s newest capabilities, which includes a retrieval arm that can open and close doors, retrieve objects and extends into spaces, like piping and other plant components.
Students at the event were able to deploy the retrieval arm so that the robot could retrieve it’s … chew toy, of course.
“It’s great to be able to show off our technology to local students – I hope that we’re inspiring them to consider working within the nuclear industry and in radiation protection. How cool would it be to hire one of these students at Oconee Nuclear Station years later who was inspired by seeing the robot at an educational event.”
These robots continue to prove their value at Oconee Nuclear Station. Most recently, they are being used to complete visual inspections of high-energy electrical components where risk is greater for potential arc flash. Additionally, Atom’s new camera technology will allow technicians to view energy levels within radiologically controlled areas of the nuclear station.
“This technology is cutting-edge stuff,” Leigh said. “These robots help us find unique, innovative ways to work."
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