As mentioned in one of my past posts, this year I’m working for the Robotics and Spatial Systems Laboratory here at Florida Tech. Needless to say, I adore my job in every way. I pretty much choose whenever I want to work, I get to work on the things I’m passionate about, and on top of all of that, I get paid for it! Why yes, it’s as wonderful as it sounds.
One of the projects I have been assigned to is called the “SphereWalker.” Basically, it’s a four-bar mechanism robot with three individual segments running off of three motors (with their respective encoders and speed controllers). In short, it’s an awesome walking machine!
The whole concept for the SphereWalker began when my professor/adviser/boss Dr. Larochelle observed how his pet tortoise walks. If you look at a tortoise or turtle, you’ll notice that the back right leg and the front left leg are in sync with each other and the same for the other two legs. Dr. Larochelle wanted to take this concept and apply it to a robot, with the benefit coming from having more mechanisms touching the ground with the use of fewer motors. Thus the SphereWalker was born. Each segment is made up of an arch (the ends of the arches are the feet) and the front and back segments are in sync with one another while the middle segment is opposite of the two. You can see how the mechanisms work in concept in this video.
I’m having a great time absorbing and learning about all the different components and systems that make up the SphereWalker. Our main focus for this robot is to get it back to walking in sync once again. There had been a few issues with hardware before and that had broken a few of the components. Our job is to fix everything, get the SphereWalker back to walking, and then continue to develop and improve the robot.
Most recently, I’ve been focusing in the circuitry and wiring of Spherewalker, trying to fix all of the speed controllers. There’s been a lot of re-soldering and a lot of code testing. I enjoy every second of it, and sometimes I have to stop myself from working so much so I can do my homework! I’ll be sure to keep writing updates as we progress with the Spherewalker, but check out the RASSL website that gives more information.