Innovator to Watch: CSU Grad Student Greg Schroll

October 8 2009, 10:41 AM

Greg Schroll used to dream he could bend a soccer ball like David Beckham. But it wasn't his skills that could send the ball curving away; it was the soccer ball itself. Of course, cat toys can accomplish the same thing, but while he was at MIT, Schroll devised a more sophisticated, spherical botball (my word, not his, for the robotic invention) with special gizmos inside that allow it do to what other moving spheres cannot: climb upwards. "Most people have a disclaimer saying their spherical robot can't climb steep inclines or stairs. My goal was to overcome that limitation," he tells Popular Mechanics magazine, which has dubbed the 23-year-old Colorado State University grad student one of the Top 10 Innovators of 2009 for accomplishing the task, keeping northern Colorado at the forefront of robotic invention. Ideas of how exactly to apply the technology are at this point a bit hazy. The botball could one day be used in space exploration or search-and-rescue operations---or even by the military, where some generals dream of robot battalions. "There's so much more to do, almost an infinite number of things I could do with it," he tells 9News. One thing is clear, though: Beckham, aka. "Goldenballs," is aging, but while he is somewhat marginalized by his English national team, the soccer star still seems a few years away from needing a botball to stay competitive.