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: Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

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

4.3 /5 (4 votes)

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

Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

10 hours ago

Talk about your Craigslist finds! A team of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) combined inspiration with innovation to make a $250 ...

Using robots to study evolution

Apr 14, 2014

A new paper by OIST's Neural Computation Unit has demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. Published in PLOS ONE, Stefan Elfwing, a researcher in Professor Kenji Doya's Unit, has succes ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Freight train industry to miss safety deadline

The U.S. freight railroad industry says only one-fifth of its track will be equipped with mandatory safety technology to prevent most collisions and derailments by the deadline set by Congress.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.