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Military robots visit Canton Central

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CANTON - Teenagers at Canton Central School recently had the chance to operate two different robots that were used by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq to defuse bombs.

Some also found out what if feels like to wear an 80-pound military bomb suit.

“I think it’s pretty cool that they use a machine like this in the military,” Scott J. Wight, 16, said as he watched a classmate maneuver one of the robots around a classroom floor.

Two members of the Army’s 760th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Co. traveled from Fort Drum to Canton school to demonstrate some of their equipment at the request of high school technology teacher Gerald F. Lambert.

Equipped with PlayStation controllers and a computer screen, interested students learned how to “drive” the robots and pick up a metal pipe.

The soldiers started their visit by giving a morning presentation for the McKenney Middle School Student of the Quarter ceremony. Throughout the day they met with students from several different high school classes.

Mr. Lambert said he feels it’s important to show students how technology is used in real-life settings.

“Seeing a demonstration makes a huge difference in what students learn and how they learn it,” Mr. Lambert said. “Any time they can see that science, technology, engineering and math is not only useful but fun it increases the chance they will go into careers in those areas.”

While stationed in Afghanistan, Spc. Daniel J. Reffey said he used the robots to pick up and dismantle hundreds of bombs.

Soldiers usually operate the robots from their vehicles using controllers that are similar to video-game controllers, he said.

“What we do kind of depends on the situation,” Spc. Reffey, 26, said. “It’s a great job because you know you’re helping your fellow soldiers and doing the job that needs to be done.”

The bomb suit is used when it’s not practical to use the robots, he said.

“I’ve used the suit, but we try to use the robots at all times that it’s possible,” Spc. Raffey said.

The Fort Drum soldiers were joined by Sgt. Jessie J. Kozak, an Army recruiter based in Potsdam.

The military is working to promote technology because an increasing number of duties are being handled by robots and other unmanned devices, he said.

“We still need skilled operators to operate these things,” he said.

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