Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flexible Robot Crawls in Tight Spaces

"Gumby-like flexible robot crawls in tight spaces

Harvard scientists have built a new type of flexible robot that is limber enough to wiggle and worm through tight spaces.
It's the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied robots. Researchers are increasingly drawing inspiration from nature to create machines that are more bendable and versatile than those made of metal.

The Harvard team, led by chemist George M. Whitesides, borrowed from squids, starfish and other animals without hard skeletons to fashion a small, four-legged rubber robot that calls to mind the clay animation character Gumby.

In recent years, scientists have been tinkering with squishy — sometimes odd-looking — robots designed to squeeze through hard-to-reach cracks after a disaster like an earthquake or navigate rough terrain in the battlefield.

"The unique ability for soft robots to deform allows them to go places that traditional rigid-body robots cannot," Matthew Walter, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email.

A team from Tufts University earlier this year showed off a 4-inch caterpillar-shaped robot made of silicone rubber that can curl into a ball and propel itself forward.

The Harvard project, funded by the Pentagon's research arm, was described online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new robot, which took two months to construct, is 5 inches long. Its four legs can be separately controlled by pumping air into the limbs, either manually or via computer. This gives the robot a range of motions including crawling and slithering.

The researchers tested the robot's flexibility by having it squirm underneath a pane of glass just three-quarters of an inch from the surface.

Scientists maneuvered the robot through the tiny gap 15 times using a combination of movements. In most cases, it took less than a minute to get from side to side.

Researchers eventually want to improve the robot's speed, but were pleased that it did not break from constant inflation and deflation.

"It was tough enough to survive," said Harvard postdoctoral fellow Robert Shepherd, adding that the robot can traverse on a variety of surfaces including felt cloth, gravel, mud and even Jell-O..."
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Friday, November 25, 2011

2011 LEGO Smart Creativity Contest Winners!

Thanks to LEGO education for this program and posting these fabulous student robotics projects! LEGO Robotics is 'THE"  approach, resource set, and student activity type most perfect for STEM learning for 21st Century Learners! This LEGO education web page has links to dozens and dozens and dozens of videos of student projects

Want to get started using LEGO Robotics with your young learners? It's easier than you think! This book is for all interested in Getting Started with LEGO Robotics

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Students Use Robotics to do Underwater Archaology

FETCH ROBOT - AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle)

"Students Use Futuristic Technology to Dive Into the Past

Newswise — A new partnership between the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Watermen’s Museum in historic Yorktown will give local students a unique opportunity to dive into Colonial history—literally.
The project, funded by a 1-year grant from the National Science Foundation, will allow the students to pilot unmanned robotic submarines in an attempt to monitor the conservation status of shipwrecked vessels scuttled by Lord Cornwallis during the Battle of Yorktown in 1781—the last major battle of the American Revolution.
Leading the project are Dr. Mark Patterson, head of the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at VIMS, and Dr. David Niebuhr, Director of the Watermen’s Museum. The students are from Point Option High School in Newport News, the Williamsburg Montessori Middle School, and Peasley Middle School in Gloucester. VIMS graduate student Jennifer Elliott, who is teaching at Peasley as part of the VIMS GK-12 partnership, will also be involved.
The project capitalizes on the recent discovery in the York River of two new shipwrecks from the siege of Yorktown. Previous archeological work had revealed the presence of nine other wrecks, including the HMS Betsy, the target of intensive study during the 1970s and 1980s. These wrecks are listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places..."
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Reviews: Race Agains the Machine

"Robots Are Coming to Take Your Job
Are you a truck driver? How about a retail clerk, bank teller, tax preparer? Or even a doctor, lawyer, or accountant? If so, a robot may be coming to take your job away in the near future.
That is the premise of a new e-book called “Race Against the Machine” by MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, which is available on Amazon. In their book, they argue that our current unemployment problems are not just due to job outsourcing, but also to the rapid pace of technology, and most people’s inability to keep up with it.
In the past, technological innovations tended to destroy jobs when they were first introduced. The invention of the grain thresher ended employment for 25% of the agricultural workers that had been needed to bring in the crops. But there has always been a net gain of jobs in the long run, as new technologies created jobs in fields that had not existed before. 
In their book, Brynjolfsson and McAfee make the case that these days, machines are increasingly able to perform tasks in which humans were once unquestioned masters. And corporations are eager to replace workers, with their irritating need for pay, health care, and retirement plans, with robots and computers who will work 24 hours a day without complaining, and in many cases do a job much better than humans can. This is leading to a situation ..."
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"More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People

A faltering economy explains much of the job shortage in America, but advancing technology has sharply magnified the effect, more so than is generally understood, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The automation of more and more work once done by humans is the central theme of “Race Against the Machine,” an e-book...
“Many workers, in short, are losing the race against the machine,” the authors write.
Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business, and Andrew P. McAfee, associate director and principal research scientist at the center, are two of the nation’s leading experts on technology and productivity. The tone of alarm in their book is a departure for the pair, whose previous research has focused mainly on the benefits of advancing technology.
Indeed, they were originally going to write a book titled, “The Digital Frontier,” about the “cornucopia of innovation that is going on,” Mr. McAfee said. Yet as the employment picture failed to brighten in the last two years, the two changed course to examine technology’s role in the jobless recovery.
The authors are not the only ones recently to point to the job fallout from technology. In the current issue of the McKinsey Quarterly, W. Brian Arthur, an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, warns that technology is quickly taking over service jobs, following the waves of automation of farm and factory work. “This last repository of jobs is shrinking — fewer of us in the future may have white-collar business process jobs — and we have a problem,” Mr. Arthur writes...

Technology has always displaced some work and jobs. Over the years, many experts have warned — mistakenly — that machines were gaining the upper hand. In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes warned of a “new disease” that he termed “technological unemployment,” the inability of the economy to create new jobs faster than jobs were lost to automation..."
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National Geographic Show 'Robot Genius' - Great STEM Educational Content

This wonderful show reveals the spirit of 'home brew' robotics engineering. Fantastic to see what an inspired and talented DIY roboticist an do!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Robotic Legs give paralyzed woman the gift of movement

Robotic skeleton helps paraplegic walk
A paraplegic woman has been fitted with a robotic suit which has helped her to walk again
Read the full Telegraph story @:

A set of robotic legs originally bankrolled by the U.S. military to give soldiers a superhuman edge on the battlefield have been repurposed by a company called Ekso Bionics for a more charitable task: giving paraplegics a chance to walk again. The exoskeleton -- which was demonstrated Friday at the London International Technology Show -- relies on sensors and a CPU to mimic nerve and brain function. The company said it will make the Ekso available to rehabilitation centers in the U.K. starting next year.