June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
23.97.1 - 23.97.13
A Remotely-accessible Reconfigurable Platform for Robotics EducationAbstractA broad spectrum of approaches has recently been suggested by educators to effectively exposestudents to the field of robotics. A traditional approach is to have students interact with thephysical systems, and perform tasks and experiments designed to teach them the fundamentalaspects of robotics, both for robotic manipulation and mobile robotics. A shortcoming ofinteracting with the hardware, however, is that students only get to experience a specific type ofrobot, and most institutions cannot afford a complete (or even partial) collection of robots forlaboratory exercises. Therefore, many approaches for virtual robotic exposure have beendeveloped, including virtual environments for teaching the kinematics and dynamics of robots,software environments for visualizing a wide range of robot manipulators, and simulationenvironments for showing how these robots behave in the real world, some with an emphasis onmultiple robotic configurations. Simultaneous to the development of various instructionalrobotics laboratories, there has been a development of strategies in educating students remotelythrough what has been labeled as eLaboratories. The motivation for such laboratories includesallowing students to utilize a physical apparatus with fewer constraints on time and/orgeography, and thus helping to compensate with the increasing size of engineering classrooms,providing better instruction and more effective utilization of the specialized and expensiveequipment, and enhancing the existing distance education programs by the addition of physicallaboratory components. Applying eLaboratory practices to robot manipulators requires aplatform that does not need a human operator in close proximity to the apparatus. Forconventional manipulators, this raises some unique challenges in terms of safety, workspace androbustness. However, it does not solve the issue of having only one specific apparatus forstudents to interact with. Reconfigurable manipulators, on the other hand, can alter their dynamicand kinematic properties, thus allowing for a range of robots to be emulated on a single platform.To be feasible for eLabratories, a reconfigurable manipulator must be automatically orautonomously reconfigurable, such that it has no need for a proximal human operator for theoperation or reconfiguration.This paper discusses the design and development of a new remotely-accessible reconfigurableserial manipulator platform for robotics education. The platform is made up of 3 components: i)an 18-Degree-of-Freedom (DOF) serial manipulator capable of locking any of its joints at everypoint in their continuous range, such that it can emulate lesser DOF serial manipulators withdifferent kinematic and dynamic parameters; ii) an integrated simulation and design environmentwhich provides control over the manipulator hardware, as well as tools to aid students indesigning and simulating new configurations for various tasks; and iii) a portal that allowsstudents to access the complete platform remotely and communicate and share resources forperforming experiments and analyzing and reporting the results collectively.
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