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Dr. Kiju Lee presents her adaptive Wheel-and-Leg Transformable Robot to the audience at the MARS Conference in Ojai, California.
Dr. Kiju Lee presents her adaptive Wheel-and-Leg Transformable Robot to the audience at the MARS Conference in Ojai, California. | Image: Courtesy of Ben Rose Photography

MARS is a yearly conference hosted by Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos that brings together innovative minds in machine learning, automation, robotics and space to share new ideas across these rapidly advancing domains.

Dr. Kiju Lee, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution and the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, attended the 5th annual event to present her adaptive Wheel-and-Leg Transformable Robot (α-WaLTR) with an on-stage, live demonstration in Ojai, California. Lee was one of 14 invited presenters this year. 

α-WaLTR can efficiently traverse varying surfaces, including staircases, using wheels or legs depending on its immediate need — with or without human intervention.

From left: Yuan Wei (graduate student), Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics) and Kangneoung Lee (graduate student) interact with α-WaLTR during a live demonstration.
From left: Yuan Wei (graduate student), Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics) and Kangneoung Lee (graduate student) interact with α-WaLTR during a live demonstration. | Image: Courtesy of Ben Rose Photography

Lee designed α-WaLTR with the goal of advancing ground mobility in robots. She presented the design-driven innovation as well as her team’s rapid and intensive development journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Toward the end of her talk, Lee invited α-WaLTR onstage while her demonstration team controlled the robot to climb over the stairs and come up to the stage, demonstrating the robot’s signature stair-traversing capability.

α-WaLTR is demoed live during Lee’s MARS Conference presentation by Texas A&M mechanical engineering student Annalisa Tostenson.
α-WaLTR is demoed live during Lee’s MARS Conference presentation by Texas A&M mechanical engineering student Annalisa Tostenson. | Image: Courtesy of Ben Rose Photography

“I was very humbled to be there with so many brilliant and innovative minds,” said Lee. “It was such an inspiring and fun experience.”

Lee’s demonstration team included three mechanical engineering graduate students: Kangneoung Lee, Yuan Wei and Annalisa Tostenson. The development of α-WaLTR was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics Sprint-5 effort.