A Look At College Robotics Projects

Feb 13, 2020

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University students across the state of Utah regularly work on projects that address real-world issues. One such project is being worked on by two students at Brigham Young University as part of their master’s degrees. . 

“The main thing we're working on right now is a robot that can interact with people. And we've seen that people when they work together to carry something, they don't actually have to vocally communicate a lot to be able to move it effectively. So we think there's something that humans do some form of communication through the table. We call that haptics. So we're trying to train the robot to do that and see if it can be generally helpful,” said Tyler Quakenbush, a mechanical engineering graduate student at BYU.

He and his fellow student, Seth Freeman, have been working for months on their human-robot project. 

“A normal day for us has been, we brainstorm together and we make a list of the tasks that need to be done, getting the software ready to run and get every all the sensors on the table talking to each other,” Freeman said.

Quackenbush and Freeman are working on the project with their professor, Marc Killpack. Some of Killpack's previous projects have been funded by NASA and Freeman and Quackenbush intend to integrate the research they do with some of those past projects. 

“We spend a lot of time thinking and at the whiteboard, talking,” Killpack said.

“So we have two force-torque sensors on one side, we have these little things on the ceiling that do IR tracking of little devices on the table. And so that will give us position data. And then you can take numerical derivatives of that to get the velocity and acceleration,” Freeman said.

“These students are really good people who will go and make a difference in their careers, that's probably the biggest impact will have, honestly. I think secondary to that, we hope that the research we're doing will make people's lives better. Scenario, you're digging through rubble or you're finding, you know, people who have been injured and trying to carry them to safety. If we can dump robots that can help people you can, you know, you can reach twice as many people you can help twice as many people you can magnify the efforts of people who might already be on the ground,” Killpack said.”

“Technology is this like miracle,” Freeman said. “As long as we are ethical with the way that we use technology, I think it's a super huge blessing to humanity.”