Cornell robot fails to break a record, but students learn

Apr 03, 2008
Cornell robot fails to break a record, but students learn
Jason Cortell, manager of the the Biorobotics and Locomotion Lab, follows the Cornell Ranger, on a test walk. The robot's body hides complex computer controls that sense the position of the legs to decide when to swing them forward and how to adjust the pivoting feet. Photo: Jason Koski

Engineering education needs to include a few rough spots to be worthwhile. An attempt to set an unofficial world record for how far a robot could walk failed the night of March 30, but the team will keep trying.

The Cornell Ranger, a robot developed by a team of students working with Andy Ruina, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics, fell down after about 4.75 laps -- about .95 kilometers ( .59 miles) -- around the running track in Barton Hall. An earlier version of the same robot had already set a record by free-walking a bit over 1 kilometer, about .62 miles. (Another robot has walked 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) on a treadmill, Ruina noted.)

Ruina was hoping for 10 or more kilometers, more than 6 miles, depending on how long the robot's battery charge would last. The Ranger, like other robots developed in Ruina's lab, is designed for maximum energy-efficiency. Although its four-legged design makes it look a bit like a walking sawhorse, it mimics human walking technique, using energy only to push off with its pivoting toes, but depending on gravity and forward motion to swing its legs forward.

The goal of the research, Ruina said, is not only to advance robotics but also to learn more about the mechanics of walking so the information can be applied to rehabilitation and prosthetics for humans.

After a promising start, the robot literally stubbed its toe after failing to tilt one of its feet upward as the leg came forward. With that, the team of students went into an intense diagnostic session, reviewing telemetry that showed the signals sent by the robot's computer controller to its motors and switches, watching video of the fall and taking new video as the robot was repeatedly tested. The problem was eventually diagnosed as a loose connection in the wires leading to a sensor that measures the angle of the legs relative to the ground.

"I'm actually sort of glad this happened," Ruina said as he watched the students cluster around a laptop to review the robot's programming. "They need to learn that failures are a part of engineering in the real world."

Source: Cornell University

Explore further: Drones thrill Martha Stewart... and US prison convicts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Iliad founder says T-Mobile offer is 'real'

41 minutes ago

French telecom upstart Iliad's founder said Friday that the company's offer for US-based T-Mobile is "real" and that he is open to working with partners on a deal.

Law changed to allow 'unlocking' cellphones

56 minutes ago

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Friday making it legal once again to unlock a cellphone without permission from a wireless provider, so long as the service contract has expired.

Social network challenges end in tragedy

57 minutes ago

Online challenges daring people to set themselves ablaze or douse themselves in ice water are racking up casualties and fueling wonder regarding idiocy in the Internet age.

Microsoft sues Samsung alleging contract breach

58 minutes ago

Microsoft on Friday sued Samsung in federal court claiming the South Korean giant had breached a contract over cross-license technology used in the fiercely competitive smartphone market.

States debate digital currency

2 hours ago

Now that consumers can use digital currencies like bitcoin to buy rugs from Overstock.com, pay for Peruvian pork sandwiches from a food truck in Washington, D.C., and even make donations to political action committees, states ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Johnson442
not rated yet Apr 04, 2008
As the old saying goes: "Do it right, learn a little. Do it wrong, learn a lot!"