Miniature Autonomous Robotic Vehicle (MARV)

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In 1996 researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, N.M., developed tiny robots to investigate the miniaturization of mechanical systems. They sought to demonstrate the feasibility and learn the limitations of using commercially available components to assemble tiny autonomous mobile vehicles. About one cubic inch in volume, MARV housed all necessary power, sensors, computers and controls on board. It was the first robot of its kind made at Sandia and among the smallest autonomous vehicles anywhere.
On a custom track, the four-wheeled MARV detects and then follows a buried wire carrying a fixed radiofrequency (a 96 kHz signal). To accomplish this, the robot employs two Sandia-designed sensors to measure the relative strength of the radio signal. Based on the signal, the on-board computer decides where to move and directs two drive motors to steer toward the signal. Approximately 300 lines of computer code control the vehicle.
MARV’s main developers were Barry Spletzer, Thomas Weber, Jon Bryan, and Michael Martinez.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 1 1/4 in x 1 in x 1 1/4 in; 3.175 cm x 2.54 cm x 3.175 cm
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accession number
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See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Science & Mathematics
Robots and Automatons
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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