Dates: July 15th-26th
Students in this module will learn about and develop complete robotic systems from the ground up. Examples of current robotic systems employed throughout the world (and solar system) will be discussed and lightly analyzed as well. Components, systems, and behaviors of robots that will be discussed includes motors and their control, sensors and their integration into the system, microcontrollers, and communications with external systems using XBee radios (as easy to use as Bluetooth), and autonomous vs. remote-controlled behaviors. Students will build their own robots using the Arduino microcontroller platform and sensors designed for the Arduino platform. At the beginning of the module, the students will start by designing robots that are capable of doing simple tasks, such as line-following and obstacle detection. As their skills and confidence grow, and while exploring the more fun side of robotics through various small challenges and competitions, they will advance their robots to be able to perform more complicated tasks, such as sumo wrestling and obstacle avoidance. Throughout the module, the level of autonomy of the robots will be slowly increased as well; starting as remote controlled vehicles and ending as fully autonomous systems. At the end, students will have developed a differential drive robot capable of autonomously navigating a large maze-like obstacle course.
If time permits, and the students make sufficient progress, we hope to introduce them to the concept of improved controls through cyber-physical systems. We will show students how to develop a 2D virtual world with a virtual robot, and how to integrate the data being transmitted by their robots into the computer world so that their virtual robot does exactly what their real robot does!
Finally, at the end of the course, we will demonstrate an advanced cyber-physical system and the concept of networked robots with a demonstration we are currently developing: we will fly a quadcopter over the top of the obstacle course, use the quadcopter’s onboard cameras to map the course before the students’ robots enter the course, and then display the course as a virtual world on a computer. The students and their robots can use this virtual world to assist in moving through the obstacle course.
This module is not for the faint of heart. Building and programming cool robots is complicated and tedious. It requires a great deal of perseverance and self-motivation. If you choose this module, be prepared to work hard. However, if you come and work hard, you'll learn a lot and have a lot of fun!
"I was born and raised in the Mat-Su Valley. As a kid, I enjoyed hockey, running, skiing, reading, and music. After graduating from high school, I went to college at UAF where I continued to play with Legos and make robots. After working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh for a while, I returned to Alaska. I went back to school to become a teacher and then taught at Burchell High School for two years. I now work at Twindly Bridge Charter School where I teach two robotics classes, and I also teach another robotics class after school at Fronteras Charter School.
I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife and two kids (ages two and four), and often take them swimming, ice skating, or hiking. Aside from teaching, I enjoy playing with robots, working with computers, reading and helping people. I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to build and program robots with me."
Steven is a graduate student at UAF working toward a PhD in Computer Engineering. In addition, he has started a company with a couple other UAF graduates, developing scientific payloads for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Steven’s research revolves around using multiple robots in a group to accomplish tasks faster than a single robot could, or to accomplish tasks that one robot alone could not. Steven has plenty of robotics experience too: over the last six years Steven has been involved in 5 robotics projects, at various levels of complexity. The most advanced robot he has built was an autonomous robot called a “micromouse”, with which he has competed in a yearly competition for the last six years. He and his team have won the competition 5 of the 6 years and taken 2nd place the other year. In his free time, though, Steven explores several different exciting hobbies, including photography, flying airplanes (full size and scale/radio-controlled), and has lately been developing projects that are a confluence of art, electronics, and 3D printing. His belief is that art should be functional: with microcontrollers being so small, low-powered, and inexpensive, there is no reason why our art must only look good: it should be capable of performing some function as well. His functional art lately has focused around artistic clocks that use RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) LEDs so that the clock can change color over time. There are endless possibilities for using the changing color of these clocks, including as a way of displaying temperature (blue is cold, red is warm, etc…), or as a countdown to a big event (turning slowly from blue/red to red/green as Christmas approaches). Anything is possible; it just takes an idea and the desire to build it! For a look at a few of Steven’s projects, visit his YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/wingsoalaska