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1 I Vl/H/XV Ol IF THEBRUNSWICKftBEACON |Q|
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Local Boy Makes Good Sense
Rickey Miller talks about someday retiring and
coming hack home to Brunswick County; but
for now, his wife Lori has her car stuck in the
snow in Homer, Pennsylvania, where he owns and
operates the largest satellite dish business in the state.
But that's not the Seaside native's current claim to
fame. That would be "Robostop," one of those
inventions that makes you say to yourself, "Geez. 1
could have thought of that..."
But you didn't and he did.
It all happened on a hut day when Miller, a 1975
West Brunswick High School graduate and football
team alumnus, was stuck in traffic at a construction
site. He asked the Hag lady why she couldn't just sit
down on a stool or something.
Because that would be dangerous, she answered.
Flaggers need to be able to get out of the way in a
hurry if cars come too close.
Miller went home and designed the remote
controlled robot which flags cars while a person
controls it from a safer spot. A dagger places
"Robostop," a sign mounted on a moving stand, at the
edge of the road and moves to a safer position. As
traffic approaches, the worker pushes a button,
causing Robostop to turn its sign from "stop" to
The device can rotate a 36- or 4X-inch stop/slow
paddle for greatly increased visibility, an important
feature on niiiy or winding roads.
It will collapse if struck by a vehicle, so there's no
chance it will be knocked into anything or anybody. It
can also be directed to give off a strobe light or sound
a siren when a vehicle strikes it. or even comes
At first, he says, he was looking at the idea from a
"comfort factor. But then I started to look at it from
the safety factor."
He worked up a model and showed it to the
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, whose
officials liked it. He sought help in developing and
marketing Robostop from Samuel Singer, president of
Ouintech Electronics and Communications of Indiana.
Miller said he fully expected to hit a roadblock, so
to speak, with the PennDOT but was pleasantly
surprised to find the agency very receptive. Though he
admits Robostop can't be used on every type of job, it
would be a welcome innovation on many.
There turned out to be more advantages than he
had even considered. I le learned that safety is a real
problem for flaggers and that 15 PennDOT employees
were injured in traffic accidents in work zones
between July 1992 and 1993 Public and private
agencies in every state experience the same problems,
"When you talk about having to pay out $30,(MX)
to $40,000 in worker's compensation per person, now
it suddenly makes sense," said Singer in justifying the
robot's SI.500 to $2,000 price as compared to the basic
hand-held slow/stop sign motorists are used to seeing
and heeding at road construction sites.
There's also the unexpected benefit to the disabled,
who haven't been able to work as traditional flaggers,
but some of whom may be able to do that type of work
with the aid of Robostop.
In addition to highway work, the device has
applications for regulating traffic at such events as
BY LYNN CARLSON
BRUNSWICK NATIVE Rickey Miller (left) poses with Robostop, technical operations manager Frank Filing (center) and Sam Singer, CFO of Quintech.
Inc. at a traffic safety convention in Florida this past July.
concerts, sporting events and even school crossings, and
a wireiess remote has been developed.
Now, the patent on Robostop is pending, and a
lobbyist has been hired to push the device in Congress.
Application has been made tor approval by the U.S.
Department of Transportation, and Robostop is
approved for sale in three or four states and in Canada.
Pennsylvania has approved it for testing and for sale on
an experimental basis.
Miller says he hasn't forgotten where he came from.
and he fully intends to return. He comes home to
Brunswick County three times a year or so to visit his
dad. William Miller, in Seaside, and other relatives near
Ocean Isle Beach, Bolivia and Wilmington.
He ventured north to Homer, 50 miles northeast of
Pittsburgh, after he graduated from a branch of Georgia
Tech in computer science and fell in love with Lori. a
Pennsylvania girl. He's been there ever since.
He spent nine years working in coal mines, bought a
bar and restaurant and started his satellite dish business.
of which he has been sole proprietor for 15 years. "It's
nice up here, ani) I love it, hut someday I want to come
home," he said.
For the time being, his days are full with his wife,
three-year-old daughter Gabrielle and See World, his
Though he has dabbled with inventions in the past,
nothing he's thought up reached fruition like Robostop.
"It's catching on," he says modestly. "Maybe that
retirement will happen sooner than I thought."
Two Local Students Advance
In National Geography See
Two local first-round winners in the National Geography Bee may
have an opportunity to advance to national competition and a chance
to win a $25,(KM) scholarship.
Patrick Covil and David Candela won school-lev
el competitions held last week at Shallotte Middle
School and the Crary School respectively. Each
received maps from the contest sponsors, which
included National Geographic World, the National
?? ?--M Geographic Society's magazine for children.
Roth i(v?W ,-i written test this week with the hone
of qualifying for the state-level hee set April 8.
Up to 1(K) of the top scorers in the state will he el
The North Carolina state winner and the stu
dent's geography teacher will receive an all-ex
c ANDKI.A pense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate
in the sixth National Geography Bee May 24 and 25. That competi
tion, moderated by "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, will be aired by
most Public Broadcasting Service stations May 25.
Covil. a seventh grader, and Shallotte runner-up Jaime Atwell, an
eighth grader, said the most difficult question they encountered was
the one both missed in the finalist round: the country that peacefully
divided into two nations in 1992?Czechoslovakia.
That was the only question Covil didn't answer correctly in two
days of competition.
Last Thursday a field of 43 Shallotte Middle contestants was nar
rowed to eight semifinalists in two hours of oral questioning, Friday
morning that field was cut from eight to two in less than 30 minutes.
Among other questions, Covil successfully interpreted a weather
map. named the sea caused by the pulling apart ol the Asian and
African plates (the Red Sea) and discussed the North American Fair
Trade Agreement (NARA).
When a question arose about the strategic Dardanelles strait, which
connects the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara and divides Asian
and European Turkey, Covil said, "I didn't know what they were talk
ing about, but I knew where they were talking about?Turkey."
Wallace Dunn, who coordinated the Geography Bee at Shallotte
Middle School, said Friday he's seeing results from the it creased empha
sis in schools on learning geography.
"If yesterday svas any indication, we have some people who are really
sharp, he said. "We needed to get it back into the curriculum."
In addition to the geography studies included in the social stuJies cur
STAFF PHOTO BY SUSAN USHER
PATRICK COVIIwin ner of the Shallotte Middle School (ieo
graphy Hec, checks a location on the globe with runner-up Jaime
riculum. Shallotte Middle students can also take an elective course in ge
The national contest was instigated hy the National Geographic
Society six years ago in response to a national survey that indicated most
American school students knew little, it any, geography.
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