The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science held its first robotics course during the Spring 2014 semester. The course, which was taught by Dr. Dana Dominiak, focused on the design, construction, programming, and testing of a robotic arm. Eight students took the course and contributed in a variety of ways to the finished product. The various pieces of the hand-arm assembly were printed on a Makerbot 3D printer the Department purchased using funds donated by various alumni. The students printed the pieces and then connected them together using servos, q-tips, and 200-pound fishing line. The resulting assembly is powered by six servos which are controlled by Arduino microcontrollers programmed in C. The servos are used to control the movements of the individual digits and the rotation of the wrist.
Here is a very brief video showing the hand in action. You can see the servos controlling the movement of the wrist and digits.
One of the best things about this course was how it enabled students with a variety of skills to contribute to the finished product. Some students were very good at building things. Others were great programmers. Others were good designers or could help organize the project work well. It was a true team effort, one that resulted in a remarkable piece of hardware at the end. All this was accomplished in just 15 weeks.
There will be more robotics courses in the future. After all, this hand and arm need a body to go along with them. Otherwise, they’re just creepy. Stay tuned.