Texas universities get grant for DARPA challenge

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Gov. Perry announces TETF grant for DARPA Robotics Challenge

Gov. Rick Perry has announced the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) has awarded a $1.5 million grant to support the University of Texas’ (UT) and Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) participation in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC).

“Texas is home to world-class universities that continue to advance exciting new technologies and groundbreaking research,” Gov. Perry said. “This investment has the potential to save lives through innovation in robotic technology that could assist in disaster responses around the world.”

DARPA initiated the DRC to develop effective human responses to nuclear disasters. During the challenge, eight real-world tasks are identified to mimic a disaster recovery, including opening doors, climbing a ladder, driving a utility vehicle, turning a valve, moving debris and traversing a debris-filled landscape.

Teams were competitively selected to participate in the challenge from around the world. UT and TAMU belong to the Team Valkyrie and the R5 robot, led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. UT will be responsible for the Whole Body Control framework software, while TAMU will be responsible for the bi-pedal locomotion software over rough terrain. The final challenge, scheduled for December 2015, will come with a $2 million cash award for the overall winner.

The TETF is a $200 million initiative created by the Texas Legislature in 2005 at the governor’s request, and reauthorized in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. A 17-member advisory committee of high-tech leaders, entrepreneurs and research experts reviews potential projects and recommends funding allocations to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house. To date, the TETF has allocated more than $202 million in funds to 142 early stage companies, and over $220 million in grant matching and research superiority funds to Texas universities. Additionally, since the inception of the TETF, almost $2.2 billion in additional investment from other non-state sources has followed on to the TETF investment, more than five times the amount invested by the TETF.

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