Term projects (40% of your course grade)

Each student must do a term project. The proposal should be a page or less. It should clearly describe what the student intends to do. Students should expect to spend from 20 to 40 hours on the project. Term project reports will be due the next to last week of the term. Projects may be a small manipulation problem to which you will apply some techniques learned in class, some extension or variation of a technique learned in class, or a review of a research paper related to the class material.

Experimental projects are encouraged, using any equipment to which you have access. Experimental projects can be time-consuming, and if you choose this option the 20-40 hour guideline above does not apply.

Team projects, with teams of two or three students, are also fine.

Your project may be related to your outside research project or another class project, but clearly separate from it.

How do you find a good topic? Life is full of manipulation problems, most of which have never been studied. Or if you want to view locomotion as auto-manipulation, you can study a locomotion problem. Cooking, cleaning, origami are all sources of numerous different manipulation techniques. Games are also good sources. Paper football, tiddly-winks, curling, bowling, shuffleboard, horseshoes, eraser wars, are all manipulation problems in competitive settings. Every such application gives rise to numerous little research problems, when you look at it carefully enough.

If you have some ideas but could use some help focusing on a clearly defined manageable problem, I'd be glad to discuss it with you.

  1. Here are some titles of recent projects, to give you some ideas of suitable topics:

  2. Here is a proposal I just made up, to give you an idea of expected level of detail and organization:
    Title: Pouring liquids
    Team: Moe, Larry, Curly

    We have seen some videos of robots pouring liquids, but they do not look as good as people pouring liquids, for example:
    • (A video of a human pouring)
    • (A video of a robot pouring)

    It is obvious the person is better, but not obvious exactly why. What is the objective that should be optimized? To explore that, we will devise a very simple two-dimensional simulator that pours liquid from one container into another. The pouring motion will be represented as a path in the container configuration space interpolating through a set of control points. We will formulate several different objective functions, and optimize the choice of control points for each objective, and then compare the outcomes.

    The objectives we will explore are:
    • minimum time to fill the receptacle
    • least spillage within a given time
    • (and some others)

    This project is close to my research with Professor Groucho, but that work is focused entirely on inviscid beverages, and this project will focus on molasses.

  3. Here are a few final project samples from Fall 2016: Sample 1 , Sample 2

Important dates

  1. Proposal (Due Monday, September 16)
  2. Final report (Due Monday, December 9) - Send it to the instructors via email.
  3. Presentation (December 2 and 4) - A team of n people will be given TBD*n minutes (TBD minute talk + 1 minute Q&A).