Watch a Spot robot from Boston Dynamics explore an old mine

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The ground is rocky and uneven. Old, rusted rails that used to carry loads of precious metals run the length of the path. Most wheeled robots would have trouble navigating this uneven surface, but it’s not a problem for Spot.

“This is one of the most advanced robots in the world.” Hao Zhang tells me. He’s a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, and he’s brought his department’s new robotic dog from Boston Dynamics to the Edgar Mine outside of Denver for testing. The school is one of the first customers to buy a Spot robot since the four-legged machines went on sale this summer.

Spot robot in Edgar Mine

A handler guides Spot the robotic dog with a proprietary tablet controller.

Agata Bogucka

Much of Zhang’s work in robotics involves exploring ways robots can take over dangerous jobs from people, like searching for survivors in a collapsed mine or inspecting nuclear facilities.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Zhang said. “I have been working on robots for more than 10 years, and we’ve never had such a robot that is so well designed that it can do a lot of things just out of the box.” 

Watch the video above to see how Spot handled its first test-run inside the mine.

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The News launches Education Lab to deepen coverage of our schools and explore solutions to persistent challenges

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Rarely has there been a more critical time to provide in-depth coverage of our schools.

A global health crisis and social justice movement have brought the deep inequities and challenges that have long plagued education to the forefront of community conversations.

Finding solutions to those issues that help lead to better outcomes for all children is critical to the future of North Texas.

That’s why The Dallas Morning News is launching the new Education Lab, a community-funded journalism initiative aimed at not only expanding our coverage of the most pressing issues in education but also deepening the conversations we have with students, parents and educators.

The Education Lab will build on The News’ longstanding commitment to quality journalism. We will report on pressing issues such as how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting students’ access to opportunities; how well schools are preparing tomorrow’s workforce; and how state funding challenges are affecting local classrooms.

We aim to regularly engage with our diverse community members through thoughtful discussions online — and, we hope, in person one day soon — to hear directly from you what challenges you face in navigating education for your children or yourself. Those conversations will help shape our coverage.

We’ll kick off those discussions Wednesday with a chat about what lessons have been learned as schools begin to reopen during the pandemic. You can also contribute by participating in this survey on how the coronavirus is affecting education in your life.

The Education Lab will investigate innovations across Texas and the nation to identify those that are showing promising results. No one solution will solve the complex problems facing our schools, but exploring such efforts will foster deeper conversations on what is showing progress as well as limitations.

The Education Lab is a community-funded initiative with support from The