Proton Source News

Booster's MARVelous Robots

From Fermilab Today March 23, 2005

MARV I and MARV II with their builders, (from left to right) Ray Tomlin, Greg Brown, John Larson and Bob Florian.(Click on image for larger version.)

Fermilab welcomes its newest workers, MARV I and MARV II, to the Accelerator Division. MARV stands for Mobile Arm Radiation-measuring Vehicle. The original is 12 inches tall and weighs about 8 pounds, while MARV II is roughly 1 x 2 x 3 feet and weighs a bit more. Equipped with wireless Internet access so they can be piloted remotely, MARV I and II will be used to conduct visual and radiation surveys of the Booster tunnel while the accelerator is in operation.

MARV I and II are the brainchildren of Proton Source's Ray Tomlin, in response to a request from physicist Peter Kasper, who saw a need for real-time calibration of the Booster's Beam Loss Monitors. Since personnel are not allowed inside the tunnel of an operating accelerator, a robot became the answer. Outside estimates to design and build MARV ran from $150,000 - $250,000. Tomlin realized it could be done more cheaply. "The hardest part was convincing people that it could be done for much less," said Tomlin.

Tomlin enlisted the help of engineers Bob Florian, Greg Brown, and John Larson to bring MARV to life. Accelerator Control's Florian wrote the software code used to control MARV's motors and provide data. AC's Brown helped network the robots, while ES&H's Larson did the remote LSM instrumentation. Through a National Science Foundation grant, Columbia University physicist Janet Conrad, provided funding for the project. MARV I, equipped with a radiation detector, cost roughly $1,400, while MARV II, which has a 40-lb. payload, an articulating arm, and treads instead of wheels, cost about $5,000. For all the work that went into the year-long project, Tomlin shrugs most of it off: "There wasn't a lot of inventiveness on my part," Tomlin said, "just a lot of shopping."

-Eric Bland



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