NORWAY — One of his robots got smashed and buried in a New Zealand mine and one got delayed by many months, but Bill Lovell and his bots are forging ahead in 2017.

Through his company, c-Link Systems, Lovell has set out to design bots to work autonomously or give humans a hand: cleaning up after a disaster, searching for miners after a collapse.

Lovell, an engineer, robot designer and teacher, said last week that he’s working on an updated version of his Forager robot with easier battery access, longer battery life and less costly materials.

That model will be outfitted with arms and programming to turn it into the Equi-bot, a unit meant to help around horse barns. The Equi-bot had been in his plans for this year until the owners of the horse barn that he’s prototyping it for decided they wanted his larger, more industrial bot, Lovell said.

“The one that was in New Zealand — operative word ‘was’ — met a nasty fate. It had a ceiling collapse on it,” he said. “He was going through with a jackhammer and clearing off all the loose rock.”

Sixty tons of rock and a flooded tunnel later and “he’s in a water cemetery,” Lovell said.


But that unit was also a success: No miners were hurt in the accident.

Lovell and the students he teaches once a week at Oxford Hills Middle School are facing a new deadline for their latest inventions. They’ve been invited to display their bots at STEM Day in Fenway Park in April.

“They’re the only middle school (invited) — most of them are colleges and high schools that are coming in,” Lovell said. “They’re also the only ones from Maine that I can find out.”

Lovell joked that two of the students are working on designs that look like “they’ve been watching too much ‘Star Wars,’ but that’s OK.”

Still others are working on “a little track unit to move med packs around the battlefield between people that need them,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable watching them. They get an idea and then they dog it right into the ground.

“My two girls, theirs is the one that’s going to be interesting,” Lovell said. “Their robot can both roll around the floor on wheels, can walk and can climb walls. They are really taking on a project and their sketches are a little rough, but they’re getting there.”

All in all, he’s optimistic for 2017.

“It’s looking like a better year,” Lovell said.

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