Swimming-pool ships make waves in modular robotics (w/ Video)

Feb 12, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog
Swimming-pool ships make waves in modular robotics  (w/ Video)

(Phys.org)—University of Pennsylvania engineering Professor Mark Yim and his students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics have been floating their robotic boats at the university pool after-hours as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project. They have received funding from DARPA's Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform.

The idea is for DARPA to draw upon the robotic boat project as research that can serve their goal of designing systems that move containers in agile ways, as linked-together boats to form islands, or to form bridges, or to serve as landing strips. The systems are for and other military purposes. According to DARPA, "The vision is to enable humanitarian assistance and disaster relief over broad coastal areas without dependence on local infrastructure, using unmodified commercial containerships, thus freeing military ships to carry out other military missions."

Prof. Yim said DARPA wants eventually to scale this system up to size, envisioning their being able to jump off the boat and form a variety of instantly formed structures. The students, in designing their , are doing a scaled-down model of what DARPA intends to do.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The team has been renting out the pool several nights a week and they conduct their experiments, with their robot swarms taking over the pool, into the early morning hours.

The team built over 100 miniature "boats" out of laser-cut black plastic. As a video shows, the containers look like large shoe boxes. The containers are each named after a chemical element. The boats are controlled with Gumstix computers, which are Linux computers-on-modules. The computers tell the boats where to go.

Yim and his students have written and manipulated code to get the boats to perform their tasks. When the assignment is to form an island, the boats move into place and hook together.

Prof. Lim's research interests lie squarely in modular robots, which are machines made up of modules that can function alone or can be configured for a specific task. These types of robots are made up of identical active components that can be arranged to form numerous configurations—from snake to humanoid to centipede shapes. The systems can also self-reconfigure, depending on the called-upon task. Instead of sending ten different robots to do ten different things, notes Lim, one can have one robot that can do those ten things.

Explore further: Engineers debut adhesive material based on gecko feet

More information: Via www.thedp.com/article/2013/02/engineers-design-robot-boats-in-pottruck-pool

0 shares

Related Stories

DARPA develops technologies for aiding disaster relief

Jun 27, 2012

During natural or man-made disasters, the U.S. armed forces' rapidly deployable airlift, sealift, communication, and medical evacuation and care capabilities can supplement lead relief agencies in providing ...

DARPA to invest in iRobot's inflatable robot arm

Aug 22, 2012

(Phys.org) -- In military operations there are a lot of things that need to be done besides fighting, and the US government is hoping to offload as much of those things as possible to robots. To that end, ...

Recommended for you

Cheetah robot lands the running jump (w/ Video)

21 hours ago

In a leap for robot development, the MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs—making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over ...

Robot swarms use collective cognition to perform tasks

May 28, 2015

The COCORO project's robot swarms not only look like schools of fish, they behave like them too. The project developed autonomous robots that interact with each other and exchange information, resulting in ...

Job-sharing with nursing robot

May 27, 2015

Given the aging of the population and the low birthrate both in Japan and elsewhere, healthcare professionals are in short supply and unevenly distributed, giving rise to a need for alternatives to humans ...

Robots can recover from damage in minutes (w/ Video)

May 27, 2015

Robots will one day provide tremendous benefits to society, such as in search and rescue missions and putting out forest fires—but not until they can learn to keep working if they become damaged.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.