SCAMP Anti-personnel Mine Roller Performance Testing

Published in the journal of ERW and mine action

The use of mechanical demining equipment has greatly benefited  humanitarian-demining operations worldwide. One machine type, the mine roller, has several key advantages when compared to other mechanical demining equipment. Because rollers are simple to operate, easy to maintain and have few consumable parts, they have low initial costs and operating expenses.

Despite their advantages in humanitarian-demining operations, rollers are not as widely used as other mechanical equipment, such as flails and tillers. Because roller testing is, to date, either ad hoc or limited mostly to surface-buried mines, the capabilities and limitations of rollers are not widely known. This has led to a generally held belief in the humanitarian community that roller performance is suboptimal; consequently, roller development, testing and use has remained stagnant and limited.

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Bucks County robotics company gets DOD grant for minesweeper

Published in technicallyphilly

There are millions of landmines in the ground around the world and someone in Bucks County is going to do something about it.

Bristol-based start-up Humanistic Robotics recently received $2 million in Department of Defense grants to make their minesweeper prototype a commercially viable product, according to the Inquirer. One of the leaders is a 20-something entrepreneur and has something to say about it. See what after the jump.

Humanistic Robotics was launched in 2005 by then University of Pennsylvania Wharton business school student Samuel Reeves and Joshua Koplin, then a master’s student at the Pratt Institute School of Design in New York.

“The truth is we didn’t start with the idea let’s solve the world’s landmine problem,” Reeves, 25, told a Wharton alumni magazine. “But when we were discussing the idea, that’s definitely something that jumped out about this one.”

The third version of their SCAMP (Specialized Compact Automated Mechanical-clearance Platform) was on display recently at Grundy Industrial Complex in Bristol, Bucks County. The device is made of a heavy steel frame that uses six pneumatic pistons to press two rows of nine steel wheels to the ground.

At best, Reeves says SCAMP can cost $100,000 and can clear mines from an acre in a day.

The duo, which has planted their 5,300 square foot headquarters on Canal Street in Bristol, estimates some 110 million anti-personnel land mines are planted in 60 countries. Few more than 150,000 are cleared per year and most removal methods are inefficient, they told the Bucks County Courier Times.

The DOD grant is helping their transition into a new headquarters in Bristol and helping with additional research. They also hope to expand from four employees to 12. The funding was mostly secured by Congressman Patrick Murphy, who first won our hearts one year ago when the Eagles fan cast the only dissenting voteagainst a resolution congratulating the New York football Giants for their Super Bowl victory. Murphy’s district covers lower Bucks and some of Northeast Philadelphia.

When asked how he took his business from the theoretical to the practical, Reeves answered:

We’ve been working on this for a year and a half. First, we wrote a business plan and that took months and months. As we were doing it, we talked to people in the field, specifically a think tank in Geneva. Their job is to know everything about mine clearance and come up with new ideas about mine clearance, know the trade-offs and methodologies – basically know everything about how it’s done. I was talking to them about rollers – rollers are our cornerstone technology for detonating mines because they create a lot of ground pressure – and their initial reaction was very negative. They said things like “nobody uses them” and “they don’t work.” I kept asking why, because from a practical standpoint they seem so simple and cheap to produce.

They realized they didn’t really know for certain the answers that they were giving me about rollers. They decided that since it’s their job to know, they should do a study about whether rollers are a viable clearance technology, where are they used, and where are they successful. It was something they needed to know. So they hired us to do the study for them since we were asking about them. They sent us all over the world. We went to Geneva a couple of times to meet with the think tank, and they sent us to Afghanistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Canada.

Building a Better Mousetrap, Hip Implant, Beach Towel …

Published in the Pennsylvania Gazette

Fresh from a business trip to Croatia, Samuel Reeves W’05 is chewing a bagel and discussing the relative merits of flails, tillers, and rollers-all methods of clearing landmines that destroy thousands of lives and livelihoods each year. “Rollers are simple,” he explains one May morning, his curly hair tucked under a Red Sox cap. “Which is why we like them.”

Staying simple helped win Reeves and his business partner, Josh Koplin, the $5,000 grand prize in the first annual Weiss Tech House PennVention competition. Their entry, HRI Minesweeper, is a lower-cost landmine-clearing machine. While mechanical de-miners can carry price tags of a quarter-million dollars, Reeves’ and Koplin’s invention will cost less than $100,000. “I’m going to shoot for $50,000,” he says, explaining that each dollar saved can be applied to getting the job done faster and safer.

PennVention drew 56 entries, including an improved hip implant and an unusual beach towel in second and third places-as well as an aroma chip that releases scents to attract consumers to products “at-point-of-purchase,” an alternative wallet for athletes, and a portable thunderstorm detector.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage budding inventors with mentoring and money-and to showcase the offerings of Weiss Tech House, an undergraduate-innovation hub that was created three years ago [“Gazetteer,” March/April 2004]. “Many people have a bunch of ideas and just no outlet for it, ” says Anne Stamer, director of the tech house. Whilst there are lots of steps involved with starting a business (you can find them in more detail at, having a good idea is the first step and is arguably the most important too. Following which you could look at building your enterprise from ground up by understanding your client base, needs and the demand of the times. An online survey or even an offline one, might give you a good knowledge about what you would need to start your venture. Agencies such as Qualtrics ( could prove beneficial to you in creating a helpful and informative survey about the same.

Participants came largely from the engineering school and Wharton, but also from the College, and the nursing, dental schools, and law schools. In the first phase, teams were assigned mentors after turning in brief descriptions of their ideas. Next they submitted slide presentations, which were ranked by judges from different segments of industry who gave additional feedback.

The 11 finalists won $250 cash awards to produce their projects and received additional mentoring from a product-design firm. PennVention culminated in an invention fair on April 8 and seven-minute presentations before a panel of five judges.

According to Stamer, the judges looked at “commercial viability” as well as “the cool factor.”

“[They] told us they were very surprised at the quality of the inventions and the presentations, and they were better than some they had seen in industry,” she says. “Almost all of the ideas were really interesting and several of them, while they didn’t win, I anticipate will go to market in some capacity.”

Jonathan Danoff EAS’06, and his partner Jared Bernheim EAS’07 won second place for Intellistem, a prosthetic hip implant that has the potential to last up to 30 years-much longer than other products on the market.

A major cause of hip-implant failure is that the bone breaks down around the site due to a lack of weight-bearing force being transferred to it, he explains. Surgery to replace an implant is painful and much more expensive than the original procedure.

Danoff got the idea for his invention while reading research by Dr. Carl Brighton, emeritus professor of orthopedic surgery, about the electrical properties of bone. “When you walk and compress bone, it generates a low voltage, which is one of the things that can stimulate bone to grow,” Danoff explains. “My theory is if we can [electrically] stimulate bone from the inside around the implant, there will be no bone loss.”

In addition to the second-place prize of $2,500, Danoff’s team won the Leonardo DaVinci Prize of $5,000, free legal counseling, and an offer to license their technology.

He hopes to get funds for animal testing next year.

Wharton graduate and admitted sun-worshiper Allison Floam W’05 won third place and $1,000 for Sunsak, a beach towel “with an array of features to make your stay in the sun more comfortable and safe.” For one thing it’s round, allowing the sunbather to simply rotate his or her body as the sun’s position changes throughout the day. It also turns into a tote bag.

She also won a $2,500 Consumer Product Award from QVC and the opportunity to meet with QVC buyers for advice on getting the product to the market.

HRI Minesweeper got started when Reeves was “kicking around” business ideas with Koplin, a Pratt Institute graduate and family friend. “He told me about an idea he had for a landmine clearance machine. He said, ‘We’ll sell to farmers in Vietnam,’ and I said, ‘A farmer in Vietnam can’t buy a truck, much less a landmine machine.'” But Reeves did some research and discovered that “big international organizations spent a lot of money on landmine clearance, and they could provide us with a market.”

He wrote a business plan, and they contacted a Geneva-based think tank, which in turn sent them around the world-to Eastern Europe, Cambodia, Thailand, and Afghanistan-to research landmine clearance. The pair eventually came up with a design ( that combines a magnet (to remove ground metal); a remote-control-operated roller (to detonate any mines); and a rake to turn over the soil, making it easier for a manual de-miner to come through and complete the operation.

In addition to encouragement and money, Weiss Tech House has provided another benefit to Reeves: space to store their 1,000-pound steel-roller prototype.

After their recent business trip to Croatia, they signed a distribution deal with a manufacturer. Now they’re looking for an investor-“probably not just a financial investor but somebody who’s interested in a social-impact return.”

“One slight downside to being in the landmine-clearance industry is that the business trips are not necessarily in the safest locations,” Reeves admits, although he said that they use CORPORATE HOUSING ASSOCIATES when finding somewhere to stay to ensure they have a safe place to live whilst they are away. Though excited about his success, his parents “were not wild about the idea of our going to places like Afghanistan. But it gives us a certain amount of authenticity. When we’re talking with people who’ve been in the military for years and have cleared mines, we can say, ‘We were in Afghanistan, too.'”-S.F.

Enterprising duo has designs on bomb-detonating robots

Published in the Philadelphia Business Journal

Many of the 650 people who receive their bachelor’s degrees from the Wharton School in a few weeks will go elsewhere to seek fame and fortune.

Samuel Reeves will hang around Philadelphia and try to make the world a little safer and himself a little richer.

Reeves is staying in the area to try to get Humanistic Robotics Inc. off the ground. The company, started by Reeves and his friend, Josh Koplin, has just finished a proof-of-concept prototype of a machine for detonating land mines.

The machine is basically an inexpensive robot pushing a big metal roller. Reeves thinks it can be sold profitably for less than $100,000. That’s much less than other machines for getting rid of mines, which start at around $250,000.

The lower price should appeal to all organizations that do demining, but Reeves especially wants it to enable the nonprofits in the field to expand their efforts.

“In place of buying one or two of the larger machines, I would like them to buy a whole fleet of ours,” he said.

Humanistic Robotics recently won the $5,000 grand prize in the first PennVention competition, which was sponsored by Weiss Tech House, a technology incubator run by the University of Pennsylvania for its students.

Reeves and Koplin, who earned a master’s degree in industrial design from the New York’s Pratt Institute in December, will use the money to build a better prototype.

“It will hopefully look like our actual production model,” Reeves said.

The two planned to spend the past week in Croatia, meeting with a potential manufacturer.

“If we had that in place and we had an investor to kind of complete the R&D process, it would be very close to coming to fruition,” Reeves said.