Autonomy's first speaker worked with course instructor, Illah
Nourbakhsh, to design the TrikeBot. His speech, however, concentrated
on his years of experience designing robots for Hollywood
films such as Free Willy 2 and Anaconda.
He also talked about his later work as a consultant and inventor.
he brought along demonstrated the mechanical innards and function
of the giant robots he helped to build. For instance, Hsiu
described the challenges in making a swimming robot or a giant
snake 'bot move realistically using hydraulic pressure lines.
#2: Tom Lauwers
co-president of the CMU
Robotics Club, Lauwers visited the class to discuss his
experience with the club. He talked about what it's like to
come together with students from a variety of disciplines
and work together on robotics-related projects.
described working on both large and small robots to compete
in contests. He also explained some of the supporting systems
the club is building to make future CMU robots outperform
contest rivals. The club leader helpfully provided a list
of links for Robotic Autonomy students
of the inventors of CMUcam
came to tell the story of its capability to the robonauts
during the week they attached it to their trikebots. Rowe
helped initiate the students into the world of machine vision
and visual tracking by demonstrating appropriate objects with
which to test the camera and the camera's corresponding output.
also told the students about his use of the CMUcam on “Barney,”
his winning entry in last year's Mobot competition at CMU.
Rowe and his teammate, Alok Ladsariya, used the camera and
hardware processors of their own design to negotiate the challenging
line-following course. They won a $1,000 prize for their efforts.
Autonomy's first guest speaker from NASA provided an inside
view to robotics research at the space agency. Desiano's description
of his work environment focussed mostly on the development
of the Personal Satellite Assistant. The PSA is designed to
float autonomously aboard the International Space Station.
It's mission is to provide a communications and monitoring
portal for both astronauts and ground-based NASA staff. The
PSA is scheduled for it's first space flight in five years.
illuminating aspect of Desiano's talk was the similarity of
components between the PSA and the robonaut's TrikeBots. They
share wireless networking, IR rangefinders, and a serial interface
between components. He told the students that having entered
the world of robotics, they'll encounter similar problems
and be able to use the knowledge they've gained in Robotic
the students with tales of adventure and exploration, the
NASA contractor described his work on two robotics projects,
Nomad and K9. Pedersen received his doctorate at CMU working
on Nomad, a large robot designed to traverse the icy landscape
of Antarctica, hunting for meteorites.
describing Nomad's and his antarctic exploits, Pedersen described
the K9 project to the class. K9 is a NASA Ames testbed, created
to explore how best to conduct experiments with an autonomous
robot and explore the surface of Mars. Pedersen demonstrated
how K9 uses vision to scope out interesting Martian rocks
and can then negotiate the terrain to analyze them.