by Caroline Gabsewics
One University of North Florida engineering student has much more on his plate besides attending classes and studying for exams.
A electrical engineering major and a senior at UNF, Kelvin LeBeaux is a husband, a father, a full time student, a lab assistant and an inventor.
LeBeaux, unlike many other students in college, is not looking to expand his resume and work for a big company. He is in the process of getting his own business off the ground making products to help people save money and insure the safety of their homes and families.
Two of his latest products he is currently selling are the “Robot Rover” home security device and a water injection system for fuel injected vehicles that could have drastic impacts in car fuel economy.
LeBeaux said it was in 2004 when he first thought of the concept of the Robot Rover, which can roam a person’s house, detect movement and send instant e-mails to the homeowner that include pictures of anything that sets off the sensor. He began experimenting with different robot models around the same time he enrolled at UNF.
“Years and years ago, we were out of town for the holidays and our house got broken into,” said LeBeaux, who has a wife and three children. “Since then I always thought it would be nice to have a robot that links to the Internet so wherever you are, you can see what is going on in your home.”
The first Robot Rover was a helium balloon that would float through the air, but he said he found it was hard to control the balloon. An obvious example was when the air conditioner or heater would turn on, it would blow the balloon in different directions.
LeBeaux attributes UNF professors for teaching him more about electrical engineering, which has helped him expand upon his inventions.
“UNF has helped me extremely as far as programming,” he said. “I have come along a great deal. I would have been years behind if I didn’t receive the education I am getting here.”
In 2006, he took his helium balloon robot and put a camera on a remote control car. He found that this robot was harder to reproduce as a marketable product.
“From there I started playing with that concept,” said LeBeaux.
So far, LeBeaux has sold about six Robot Rovers.
LeBeaux admits there are other security robots out there, but as far as he knows, his is the only one that has Internet access. The owner can program the robot to move on its own, or the owner can maneuver the robot themselves from any computer.
There is a transmitter with a range of 300 meters, and the robot is equipped with a camera as well as night vision. LeBeaux said the robot can roam a house or an outdoor area and transmit a live video feed that can be viewed on any computer.
The robot is linked to a computer through an interface also available to purchase with the robot. Other components that can be added to the robot include a variety of different sensors. LeBeaux said the interface software runs through a Web browser and can be controlled from any Internet connection in the world.
The basic robot without the additional components is $199. The robot runs on average about 30 minutes with all the accessories, but he said the time can be increased with a sleep mode that can be tailored to each specific owner’s schedule.
“You can train it to do what you want it to do,” he said. “It can go from room to room or stay in one room, it is up to the owner what they want to see.”
The Robot Rover will e-mail the homeowner pictures and information about movements that it detects. If there are pets in the house, the owner can train the robot not to send an alert if a cat or dog sets off the motion sensor.
“The Robot will send you e-mails in real time showing you what set off a sensor,” he said. “You can call 9-1-1 if it is an intruder, and you will have captured an image of the burglar.”
By being a husband and a dad to two girls ages 8 and 11 and a 4-year-old boy, LeBeaux said it’s hard to find the time to make the robots. He’s enrolled in 12 class credits and works as a lab assistant at UNF.
“I stay up at night,” he said. “I have three kids so it’s not the quietest.”
Most of the time, LeBeaux does his work at home — both studying and working on his inventions. He added that he often stays up all night many times throughout the week.
“I’m just driven I guess,” said LeBeaux. “I will stay there and do the work until it’s done. If there is a problem with something I will sit there until I fix it.”
LeBeaux is a native of San Diego. Before he started working in the electrical engineering field, he was in the Navy and was stationed in Pensacola as an aviation electronic technician.
Before attending UNF, he worked for several companies including the Ciena Corporation, Ktron Technologies and Sally Corporation.
“My goal the whole time was to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I had no idea UNF was even here in Jacksonville, but I am glad I came here and glad it worked out this way.”
LeBeaux has big plans after he graduates from UNF this summer. He will be working for himself inventing new products and continuing to develop his current inventions.
“I am also talking with security companies to link the robot to security systems,” he said. “I am also working on a Robot Rover with artificial limbs so it can go up stairs.”
He has gotten plenty of feedback from his customers and said they really enjoy LeBeaux’s customer service and the service his products are giving them. LeBeaux added that customers like knowing they can keep an eye on their home where ever they are.
“We have a money back guarantee, and if they need help with anything I am there,” he said.
However, the Robot Rover isn’t the only product he has invented and patented. He is also working on a water injection system for cars to help people save money on gas. For more information on the water injection system or the Robot Rover, visit www.lebeaux.biz.