Mentors: Dr. Doug Blank and Dr. Elizabeth McCormack
Robots are complex mechanical systems capable of performing various physical and computational tasks normally controlled by humans, a pre-defined program, or a set of rules using artificial intelligence techniques. Robots have a wide range of applications including car production, space exploration, medical surgery, housekeeping, education and entertainment. The goal of my research is to acquire a fundamental knowledge and understanding of the process involved in the engineering of TevBot, the robot I will design and build. TevBot will be a multi-legged, articulated robot with the ability to avoid obstacles and cliffs, take various pictures and recall them, move periodically to specific locations (precision positioning), climb up small stairs, dance, do artwork and play games. Extensive research will be carried out on existing robots in order to understand the electronics, mechanics and the software required to manipulate these devices.
My project will begin with the exploration and modification of the Roomba (a robotic vacuum cleaner) in order to understand its hardware and software infrastructure and to give it new and complex behaviors. Both Myro (the software that controls the scribbler robot used in the introductory Computer Science course) and the software for the scribbler’s Fluke (a chip that provides a bluetooth, sensors and a color camera) will be expanded to control the Roomba. The Roomba’s academic and recreational purposes will then be explored. My research also involves assembling and programming various forms of robots including a humanoid, a hexapod spider and an obstacle detection car using a robot kit. This aspect of my project will give me a great deal of familiarity with the servos (electric motors) that will be used in building TevBot as well as the processor and software I will need to control and program TevBot. The remainder of the research will be devoted to building a prototype for TevBot and programming it as well as developing a graphical user interface that will enable users to easily control TevBot.
My hope is that this research will be used as a framework for a course in Physics and Computer Science that will empower and teach students how to design and build their own robots. I also intend to use this project as a platform for exploring and conducting more research into developmental robotics, a study that involves creating learning methods for robots to give them sophisticated behaviors that have not been directly programmed into them.