+ STRIDe Develops an Adaptive Robotic Multi-Modal System (ARM2S)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have transformed modern reconnaissance and search and rescue by enabling prolonged and inexpensive air surveillance. These UAVs are typically limited in their operational abilities to open, uncluttered environments and have limited operating times due to limited fuel supply. In response to these deficiencies, a new class of robots are beginning to be developed that are small, agile, and capable of multi-modal operation to increase adaptability. Current research is focused on the development of Adaptive Robotic Multi-Modal Systems (ARM2S) capable of rapid adaptation and of operation in urban, or natural cluttered environments. While we initially present a multi-modal platform capable of climbing vertical surfaces and transitioning to gliding, future instantiations will provide superior search and monitoring capabilities by exploiting multiple modes of locomotion (such as active flying in confined spaces, running over rough terrain, and climbing vertical surfaces) as shown in Figure 1 as well as increased sensing capabilities.

We present a similar strategy for the development of a multi-modal climbing platform capable of launching from a vertical surface and gliding to the ground (or another perch). Heretofore, a platform capable of fast vertical climbing and gliding has yet to be developed due to the difficulty in achieving high speed vertical climbing, overcoming scaling and mass constraints when integrating the two forms of locomotion, and the difficulties in transitioning between modes of operation.

While climbing and gliding is not necessarily more efficient than simply running, it is often much faster and allows for overcoming obstacles, escaping predators, and avoiding rough, complicated terrain. Previous robotic climbing platforms have typically utilized multiple degree of freedom limbs for slow, quasi-static vertical climbing. In order to maintain the rapid mobility conferred by climbing and gliding, a high speed bipedal climbing design was adopted as the basis for the development of the climbing platform. The bipedal climbing design utilized presented the opportunity for significant scale reduction and mechanism simplification to develop the smallest dynamic climbing platform to date. We have also shown that this platform proves amenable to integration with flight components.

The development of Adaptive Robotic Multi-Modal Systems is ongoing with the integration of multiple forms of locomotion into lightweight, robust robotic platforms capable of operating in environments similar to their biological progenitors.

+ STRIDe Lab participates in ME2 outreach program at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science

The Scansorial and Terrestrial Robotics and Integrated Design Lab has been working to create novel, interactive outreach programs for children at the Mary Brogan Musuem of Art and Science. Participating with two other labs at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, STRIDe presents on current developments in robotics and specifically biomimetic robotics.

The program, known as ME2, also presents smart materials and nano-materials in fun, informative ways. Subjects presented include piezo electrics, MR Fluids, bipedal climbing robots, and aerodynamics.

+ Study of Simplified, Scaled Human Runner Determines Stable Gaits

For this project, a single-legged hopping robot has been developed to investigate SLIP-like running with minimal sensing and novel control schemes. The platform is designed to run across flat surfaces and across obstacles of varying heights.

The robot is a dual actuated platform with leg length actuation by a crank-coupler mechanism to change the effective rest length of the leg and hip actuation to rotate the leg to a desired orientation. Sensing is limited to motor encoders to track the force-free length leg and angle of the hip as well as a contact switch to observe when the robot is in contact with the ground. The robot is attached to a boom and runs in a circular path around a central pivot.

Ongoing research has included the examination of novel control schemes which combine the use of feed-forward actuation schemes with biologically inspired active breaking during stance to increase robustness to perturbations.


Duncan Haldane

Research Assistant, STRIDe Lab
Honors in the Major, Mechanical Engineering

Original Story: The Florida State University Student Profiles
You could think of rising senior Duncan Haldane as a time traveler.
He crewed on a replica of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian sailing vessel for an archaeological cruise directed by his mother, Dr. Cheryl Ward, former Florida State University professor and renowned maritime archaeologist.

He has been a volunteer for Florida State's Master Craftsman Program, the university's unique version of a Renaissance artisans' studio. And, as a mechanical engineering student, he works with cutting-edge 21st-century technology.

"My freshman year, I started volunteering at the Master Craftsman Program. I gained experience with traditional and high-tech methods of fabrication," said Duncan.

Bob Bischoff, director of the Master Craftsman Program, was impressed by Duncan's work. "(He) is an example of what can happen when students of exceptional ability are encouraged to use their talents for problems involved in creating real solutions," said Bischoff.

"He was able to put together aesthetics, function and process … Duncan stands out in a group of very talented students as one who will succeed at whatever he chooses," said Bischoff.

For his part, Duncan says the experience with the Master Craftsman Program prepared him for a summer 2009 internship at Florida State's High Performance Materials Institute. "I have completed both individual and collaborative research projects there. … I am still cooperating with them on several projects."

The High Performance Materials Institute researches and develops composite materials and systems. A example of the work being done at the HPMI is its research into the practical applications of buckypaper, a very thin film that is 10 times lighter than steel — but 250 times stronger, with many other extraordinary properties.

"My work at HPMI has led to further development of new composite-fabrication methods and a paper published in the Society for Advancement of Material and Process Engineering journal," said Duncan.

He has a 3.9 grade-point average, won HPMI's Most Creative Project award in 2009 and was nominated for a 2010 Goldwater Scholarship.

"I started working at STRIDe (Scansorial and Terrestrial Robotics and Integrated Design Laboratory) in April 2010. … I was very interested in smart materials. I later realized that the use of smart materials in robotics is an underdeveloped field," said Duncan.

With the knowledge he acquired at HPMI, he came up with a project appropriate for his work at the STRIDe lab. "My Honors thesis is about the use of shape-memory polymers to create a variable-stiffness running leg for the RHex robot," said Duncan. RHex is a six-legged robot that can climb and run over any sort of terrain. "The idea is to have a leg that you can send an electric signal through and thereby change the stiffness," which would increase the robot's stability and capabilities.

After pursuing a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, Duncan plans to continue researching the applications of smart materials in modern robotics.

"Duncan is a remarkable student for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his ability to master both the analytical and the practical aspects of problem solving," said Dr. Jonathan Clark, director of STRIDe.

"He has a rare ability to quickly grasp the underlying issues and theory behind a problem. He combines this with … an ability to understand how physical systems work, and the capability of working with his hands to fabricate innovative physical solutions to difficult design problems," said Dr. Clark.

Duncan is a 2010 winner of an Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award, sponsored by the Office of National Fellowships. The award supports students conducting research or other creative activity over the summer. Duncan's research will support his Honors thesis.

Dr. Clark is optimistic about the outcome. "Duncan's Honors thesis has the potential to provide a novel and elegant solution to a difficult design problem. (It) may open the door to a number of innovative designs that will improve the performance and robustness of legged robots."

Imagine a robot with a cockroach's ability to dart across the floor, up a wall and across the ceiling. James Dickson, his professors and colleagues have imagined that and more. Working with biomathemeticians who analyze how the insect moves to develop mathematical models of their motion, James and his fellow Florida State researchers intend to create robots with the agility of a roach.

James, who graduated in May with Bachelor of Science degrees in mechanical engineering and anthropology, is spending this summer in the Scansorial and Terrestrial Robotics and Integrated Design Laboratory continuing his work on the robot, ICAROS. The lab, more succinctly referred to as the STRIDe Lab, is part of the mechanical engineering department of the College of Engineering. Scansorial means having the ability to climb.

James' work with robotics began as an Honors thesis for which he received a Bess H. Ward Honors Thesis Fellowship.

"ICAROS is a small robot, about 200 grams," said James. "We are trying to engineer it to walk, fly and climb."

What could such a wondrous device be used for? When the robots are able to successfully perform all three actions, "we will see them employed in field applications such as search and rescue, surveillance and (removing landmines)," said Dr. Jonathan Clark, department of mechanical engineering professor and James' Honors thesis director.

"The robot has flapping wings. I'm working on its climbing. … Right now, the robot can climb up a carpeted wall, but it needs to be able to climb on tree bark," said James. To date, no dynamically climbing robot has been built that can climb a tree, nor has one been created that can both climb and fly. "There are quasi-static robots that can climb a tree, but extremely slowly," he said.

Anyone who has ever played with a wind-up toy can see that this is very cool project. Lest you get the impression James spends his time playing around in the lab, read on.

In summer 2009, he wrote a grant proposal to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency to get money for the STRIDe lab to develop a large lunar regolith — or topsoil — excavating robot to compete in the first Lunabotics Mining Competition. The team was granted the funding in the fall semester, and since has been working to develop the 80 kg robot for the upcoming competition.

"James is a remarkable young man. He is hardworking, dependable, personable and creative. He has the rare ability to successfully tackle a large number of projects simultaneously," said Dr. Clark. James' selection for honor societies suggests that Dr. Clark is correct in his assessment.

James was president of three honor societies at the same time in 2009. He worked to establish a student-led recognition project for professors in the College of Engineering as president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He reactivated the Florida State chapter of Pi Tau Sigma, an international mechanical engineering society, working to increase the group's membership (when he became involved there were four members; now there are 21) and energize the Mechanical Engineering Help Center.

He is the first president of the new student chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Florida State. The university's Phi Beta Kappa chapter established the student component to incorporate student members into its planning and operation. The student chapter runs orientation sessions, assists in initiation ceremonies and helps in various other activities.

Through the STRIDe Lab, James works with children at the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science.

While working on his anthropology degree, James, who has been diving since he was 12, worked on archaeological projects in Apalachee Bay. Last summer, James spent several weeks diving in Indonesia.

When he has completed the master's program in mechanical engineering at Florida State, James hopes to combine his love for diving with his knowledge of robotics to develop robots that can work in the deep.


Anybody Need a Robotic Cockroach? ABC News / Technology