Stolen robot missing after professor leaves it in his car

Portland State physics professor Dr. Erik Sanchez had the best of intentions for his new high-powered robot.

Portland State physics professor Dr. Erik Sanchez had the best of intentions for his new high-powered robot.

That is, until someone stole it out of the back of his car in Aloha either Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Sanchez planned to use the “Propeller QuadRover,” one of 50 total made, as a teaching tool for his students, but discovered when he entered his car Monday at about 9 a.m. that it had been stolen.

Parallax Incorporated manufactures the robot, which, at about 29 inches long, 19 inches high and 23 inches wide, is valued at approximately $5,000. Sanchez said the robot is extremely powerful, with its 2.5 horsepower engine, and is also a four-wheel drive vehicle.

“This isn’t a normal RC car,” said Sanchez, who has worked at Portland State for six years. “I was really excited to show it to [the students].”

Sanchez said that he obtained the robot as trade for helping out Parallax Incorporated over the past couple years, which he said is common because he has an abundance of spare parts that companies wish to use.

The plan was to use the robot as a teaching tool in Sanchez’s Methods of Experimental Physics class and as practice for the students involved with Portland State’s Society of Physics chapter.

In order to prepare them for building an underwater rover, Sanchez hoped that the students would learn how to program the robot’s brain.

“If they show motivation,” Sanchez said of students, “then I am willing to give them things to help out.”
Sanchez said that the experimental work typically bolsters a student’s resume and that he has frequently opened his lab full of parts and gadgets to help students in the past.

“People have helped me out a tremendous amount in the past,” Sanchez said. “So I feel like I need to help others out, too.”

One thing that will not help whoever took the robot is that Sanchez still has the controller that is required to operate the robot, which means the 90-pound device is essentially useless.

Sanchez said he does not wish to press charges and pleads that whoever took it simply returns it to him, someone else or the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

“Just give it back and some students will be really appreciative,” Sanchez said.