UNF students save taxpayers money by repairing SWAT robot

by: Paige Kelton Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

A powerful crime-fighting tool is ready to serve and protect, thanks to students and the University of North Florida.   The Clay County SWAT Team reached out to students after its 35-year-old robot, called the unicorn, stopped working.

SWAT Cmdr. Lt. Donnie Deas told Action News, "We couldn't spend the money to fix it."

Alejandro Lepervanche, an electrical engineering student at UNF, was more than happy to take on the challenge.


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"What a great opportunity to help the community.  It helps provide a service that keeps people safe," he said.

Lepervanche and his fellow students renamed the robot after the iconic character in the 80s movie "Short Circuit."   

Johnny Five's claw and arms worked, but the motor was dead and the design was completely outdated.

"We didn't realize this technology was developed before they were born, and it gave them the added benefit that they'd only read about," said Deas.

Students took the robot apart and deciphered decades-old schematics.

They tracked down the company that built the machine and were able to piece together the parts to get it running again.


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Three months later, Johnny Five is back in business.

The young engineers are impressed with the design.

The move also saved taxpayers $500,000.  Deas said if the repairs hadn't been made, the robot would've been out of service permanently.