The McWhorter School of Building Science (BSCI) at Auburn University (AU) is drawing the attention of those on campus with its four-legged agile robot, Mac.

BSCI purchased the robotic dog this spring, and Mac has already been used on construction sites and classrooms at AU, including the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center. Mac has conducted autonomous laser scans of rooms to capture completion percentage and provide 3D images useful to project managers and educators.

“We’re trying to use Mac in all three phases of the university mission – research, service, and teaching,” Eric Wetzel, an assistant professor of building science, said in a press release. “This is a very novel technology, especially on construction sites. Any research question we develop is untested because we’ve never had autonomous robots on job sites [as] we have now. We are looking at different applications and payloads and continue to explore [several] different research questions.”

Mac mobility and autonomous mode enable the robotic dog to enter and scan a room, avoiding obstacles and providing comprehensive detailed data studied and directly applied to projects. Its autonomous LiDAR scans, which help monitor progress with high-quality images, can also free up personnel to handle other tasks on a job site.

Mac’s four-legged structure also allows it to go up and downstairs, step over objects, and deal with the rough terrain at a construction site.

“This type of robot is the first that can actively be deployed on a construction site without getting stuck in mud or blocked by things sitting on the ground,” Wetzel said. “And for circumstances that may be hazardous or dangerous, we can send Mac to places people shouldn’t go because they’re unsafe.”

Yet, this is not the first time that robotics has been utilized on construction sites. Before Mac, AU used SAM, a Semi-Automated Mason, the bricklaying robot on the construction of the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center. The potential, according to Wetzel, for Mac and the broad field of robotics in construction sites is seemingly endless.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk State and Local Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.