RIT Design Project: Creating Better Robots

Design teams create scalable platforms to enhance robotic performance and application




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Society’s next generation of robots could come out of research by students at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Multiple undergraduate design teams over the past two years have conceived, designed and built a series of open-source, scalable robotic vehicle platforms designed to improve performance of a variety of robotic devices. The platforms will also be utilized by RIT industrial partners to increase the use and quality of robotic technology in a host of fields, including manufacturing and medicine.

“New advancements in robotics will be based in part on having multiuse research platforms that can incorporate data from a variety of sources, reducing the cost of experiments and increasing information sharing,” notes Wayne Walter, RIT professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser for the project.

“This effort also incorporates family-based project design where current teams build on previous work to create improved design versions, similar to the next model year in the auto industry.”

The robotic vehicle platforms are being designed to accommodate 1, 10, 100 and eventually 1,000 kilogram loads—the size of a Honda Civic—and to incorporate wireless technology and data-capture software. The platforms are currently being integrated into sensor network and data-analysis research at RIT and they will be made available to additional universities and research labs.

The platform designs are a component of the Dresser-Rand/RIT Campus Partnership Program, which seeks to engage engineering students in application fields important to Dresser-Rand’s manufacturing operations and future product-development plans. The open-source technologies used in the platforms are currently being considered for future use by Dresser-Rand, a multinational manufacturer of equipment for the oil and gas industry.

“This research effort has provided tremendous benefits to all parties concerned, improving the education of our students, increasing our research capacity and enhancing the benefits we can provide to industry,” adds Ed Hensel, head of RIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Walter and Hensel are planning additional design projects for the 2008-2009 academic year to further enhance platform development. They also have submitted a paper on the project for inclusion in the 2008 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The project, a component of the Kate Gleason College of Engineering’s Multidisciplinary Senior Design Program, was made possible through funding from Dresser-Rand and the Gleason Foundation.

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