Her team has been on call since 9/11; the hero bots' first mission was to comb through the rubble at the World Trade Center. "With the smoke and purple sky from the portable lights, it was like the opening sequence of The Terminator," Murphy recalls. Since then, the remotely controlled scouts have been deployed to mud slides, caved-in mines, and collapsed buildings around the world.
This summer, Murphy is prepping her unit for storm season at Texas A&M's Disaster City, a 52-acre gauntlet of wreckage used for preparedness training. She is also testing Survivor Buddy, a Microsoft-backed project designed to soothe trapped victims by supplying water and a live A/V feed to loved ones. "It's a presence right there with you," Murphy says. And it absolutely will not stop ... until you are comforted.