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Morgan Co. company donates robot to W.Va. police

Robot will be used to inspect suspicious packages, for surveillance, with SWAT teams and in hostage situations

September 21, 2010|By TRISH RUDDER
  • Berkeley Springs Instruments Vice President Philip Sturman, left, shows West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III the hazardous-duty robot that his company donated Tuesday to the West Virginia State Police.
Yvette May, Staff Photographer

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BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A hazardous-duty robot worth about $150,000 was donated Tuesday to the West Virginia State Police by Berkeley Springs Instruments (BSI) for use in the Eastern Panhandle.

The owner of the robot, Berkeley Springs Instruments, was one of 10 businesses in Morgan County that received recognition Tuesday from West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III.

A ceremony was held on the front steps of Citizens National Bank, but a robot demonstration for Manchin had to be canceled because of a mechanical problem with the robot's arms.

BSI Vice President Philip Sturman said company President Gene Silverman built the robot 25 years ago as part of another project, adding that it is the prototype for robots being built today.

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The company has been in Morgan County for about five years. It inspects giant oil storage tanks robotically to locate corrosion in the tanks, Sturman said.

"Gene Silverman is the Michelangelo in the robot industry," Sturman said.

Sturman said the robot was in storage and only was used as a demo to pique high school students' interest in engineering.

He said there is very little difference between the donated robot and the ones being made today.

Sturman said BSI will train state police personnel, help maintain the machine and modify it as needed.

The robot will be used by Cpl. L.A. Faircloth of the Special Operations/Bomb Squad, which is based at the West Virginia State Police barrack in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Faircloth said the robot will be used to inspect suspicious packages, for surveillance, with SWAT teams and in hostage situations.

He said three robots that were purchased with federal Homeland Security grant funding are being used in the state.

Robots are used to "keep a safe distance between us and hurtful things," said state police Capt. Raymond Stonestreet of Charleston, W.Va.

The three other robots in the state are in Charleston, Summersville and Elkins.

He said Faircloth will retrieve the robot from BSI after the arms are fixed, and it will be housed in Martinsburg for use in the Eastern Panhandle.

Manchin praised the community for paying tribute to its residents and businesses.

"It's a wonderful gesture," he said. "You built a retail community against long odds."

After awards were given by Manchin, Town of Bath Mayor Susan J. Webster presented him with a Town of Bath Cornerstone of the Community award for his generous commitment to the town.

Citizens National Bank President Tom Rokisky gave Manchin and his wife, Gayle, a gift basket containing Berkeley Springs items "to take home a little bit of memories of Berkeley Springs and the Town of Bath," he said.

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