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Meet BRUCE and the Caltech Robotics Team

For me, the joy of science is not so much about the eureka moment of first-time discovery. Instead, I’m most excited about science when I see “Eureka!” lighting up someone else’s face. Like many Techers, I’m  proud to be part of the Caltech community, where expanding human knowledge and understanding isn’t just a phrase in our mission statement, but part of the fabric of who we are. Your gift to the Caltech Fund fuels eureka moments.

This past March, I had the opportunity to emcee the 29th annual ME-72 robotics competition. Brown Gym was packed with students, staff, faculty, and 250 local middle schoolers, all captivated as quadcopters, tanks, and other vehicles competed to deliver a soup can to the top of a wooden pyramid. Contagious glee passed through the crowd as the robots battled for supremacy, and a young generation experienced the thrill of scientific discovery. You could see the flash of “Eureka!” on faces across the room.

Since then, I’ve continued to follow many of the participants and their work on the Caltech Robotics Team. Led by rising seniors Erin Evans and Justin Koch, team members have been designing and manufacturing “BRUCE,” a robosub that will be their inaugural entry into the AUVSI/ONR Underwater Vehicle Competition this summer. Besides being a good-looking orange machine, BRUCE has been built and programmed to swim autonomously through underwater gates, pass colored buoys in a specific order, and circumnavigate a vertical pole. Participating in this competition is just one of the ways our students are preparing themselves for future careers in robotics and engineering. And like Techers before them, they are motivating young audiences to dream about translating science into technology.

I’m proud to help spread the word about a new generation of Techers who are sharing the adventure of science with the public. Whether it’s through partnering with JPL on space missions or sponsoring robotics competitions in gymnasiums and pools, Caltech is unafraid to grapple with the difficult questions. Our pioneering efforts in science and technology benefit humanity in a demonstrable way. And we need your help to continue this work. Support the Caltech Fund and inspire research and teaching that doesn’t stop at just one eureka moment, but kindles an infinite progression of discoveries.

Thank you,

Dave Zobel ’84
Science Writer