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Montana robotics team creates pieces of equipment for Transportation Security Administration

Posted at 4:55 PM, Mar 10, 2023

HELENA - A piece of equipment made by a robotics team in Helena is being used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and requested by other airports throughout the country.

Coming off a 1st place win at a robotics competition at Montana State and qualifying for an international competition in Houston, robotics team Fusion 4133 has developed a product in demand by TSA units all over the US.

“Once you figure out oh, it’s super easy to just create a little design to fix a problem then you can see like other problems at different places,” says high school senior, Zach Heller.

Fusion 4133 recently became one of 24 other groups in the country to work with TSA’s LIFT program, and the only robotics team to do so.

The LIFT program provides challenges to these groups in order to find solutions to problems within TSA.

For example, the robotics team used CAD (Computer Aided Design) to design a mini ramp that allowed bags to more fluidly roll, lessening the possibility of getting stuck.

They utilize a 3D printer in order to bring these designs to fruition.

The team also created a product that works to stop bag straps from getting caught as they enter X-ray machines.

But what’s really caught the eye of airports throughout the US is a plastic holding container that stores testing equipment used for testing passengers’ materials.

This container helps save both time and energy.

“It’s really just ease of use. Instead of people having to rummage through a bin in a drawer, they can have this displayed on their little table, and they can know where everything will be every single time, and they can just really pick it out quickly,” says Heller.

TSA is currently funding the creation and patenting of these products destined for distribution to airports in Montana as well as airports in Houston, Chicago, and Oakland.

But Heller, the main designer of the container, says he plans to eventually move the patent to his name and sell the product himself.

“However, after this season, I’m hoping to take it on as a personal business venture to hopefully supply it to everywhere else in the states,” says Heller.

The robotics team is already working on another project in conjunction with TSA.