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A Robot Named Rasmussen

on June 16, 2017 - 9:06am

Looking into the robot Rasmussen at the Project Y STEM Center in the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Members of the Project Y Team 4153 robotics club with their robot Rasmussen. Courtesy photo


Los Alamos Daily Post

Rasmussen is a robot built at the Project Y STEM Center in Los Alamos by high school students and their adult mentors. She is named after Jane Rasmussen who was a part of the Manhattan Project and used early computers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Jane Rasmussen was not necessarily in the limelight but she contributed in an important and different way,” said Andrew Erickson, the robotics club leader. “We chose someone outside the mainstream and celebrated her diversity”.

Jane Rasmussen’s name was selected by the students from several they received from the Los Alamos Historical Society. The robotics club is named Project Y because the Manhattan Project site was known as Site Y or Project Y.

“We named ourselves Project Y in recognition of the history of our hometown, taking inspiration from the spirit of innovation and cooperation of that unprecedented collaboration of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who participated in the Manhattan Project,” Erickson said.

Rasmussen was built in six weeks as part of the annual FIRST Robotics Competition. Each year, the team builds a robot to compete in a game designed by FIRST. Rasmussen was designed to perform three basic functions. She picks up five-inch wiffle balls and throws them into a trash can. She collects a gear and puts it on a peg in a driven mode. She climbs about two feet up a rope, hits a stop that turns the robot off in the last 30 seconds.

This year, the team made it to the quarter finals of the competition in Flagstaff, Ariz. There were 48 teams in quarter finals and Erickson said Rasmussen had some inconsistency issues but did very well.

Erickson said his son, Michael, joined the robotics team as a freshman in 2012. At that stage, he hadn’t worked with robots before but when Michael was a junior, he became a mentor and has been leading the team for two years. This year, the club had 25 student members and 10 mentors with different areas of expertise. Erickson said they did a lot of recruiting and got a good cross-section of students. Project Y is an official high school club. The space at the Pueblo Complex on Diamond Drive is provided by Los Alamos Public Schools.

Materials for Rasmussen cost the club some $3,000, Erickson said. He said club sponsors include Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos, Thornberg Inc., Neptune & Co., TerranearPMC, the Masonic Lodge and National Security Technologies. He expressed particular appreciation for community support. The club also holds a chili cook-off in the fall and a waffle breakfast each year to raise funds.

For more information on Project Y, visit

Robotics team leader Andy Erickson gets ready to show how Rasmussen can throw a wiffle ball into a trash can. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Project Y mentor Alex Mead solders components at the STEM center. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Mentor Elroy Miller and Project Y student Peter Watson put together a 30-inch shear press which will be used to bend sheet metal. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Another view of Rasmussen which was constructed by the robotics club in six weeks. Photo by Maire O'Neill/

Students working on Rasmussen. Courtesy photo

Students working on Rasmussen earlier this year.Courtesy photo

Mentor Pierre-Yves Le Bas, left, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Alex Mead at the Project Y STEM Center. Photo by Maire O'Neill/