Robotics Summer Camp
How can I find out about robotics summer camps?
Here are some links to summer camps around the country. Some have
associated opportunities for teachers:
You might also join the RoboEducators
mailing list that is made up of educators and interested people from
around the country. It is a great venue for posting questions to a very
knowledgeable group. The list is coordinated by Ken Berry at California
State University - Northridge and you can email him to join: firstname.lastname@example.org
from robotics engineer Linda Kobayashi:
How time-consuming is it to come up with these creations or ideas?
I'm not sure if I would
call any part of robotics time-consuming. Certainly most things such
as designing a circuit or writing programs will take time to make them
work correctly, but I think that in robotics we are creating things
and coming up with new ideas all the time. Robotics is a continuing
effort that I don't think will ever end. There's always something to
improve upon or some new idea to implement.
What is the best part of robotics?
The best part of robotics
is getting something to work using the efforts of many different people
and skills. In robotics, there's a lot of teamwork. No one person does
all the work to make a robot operate. It's always interesting to me
to see all the different skills required to make our robots work.
What is the hardest part of building robots?
The hardest part of
building robots is finding out something didn't work the way you expected.
When that happens, we usually have to go back to the drawing board and
come up with some other creative way to do what we want.
How many robots have you personally made?
I've never made a single
robot all on my own, but I've worked on at least three or four different
robots with other people while working here at NASA Ames. Robotics usually
involves a collaboration of several individuals with different skills.
I work on electrical engineering-related problems such as building and
designing circuits whereas other people will work on mechanical, computer,
software, and research issues.
Can you describe a day
at work? I assume it is not "routine" and repetitive, but can
you give me an idea of what might be typical?
My workdays are certainly
not "routine". While there are certain mundane things we all
need to do each day, I think there's a different challenge in robotics
to tackle everyday. Being in robotics, it seems there's no shortage
of challenges and work to be done. Robotics certainly is an exciting
field. One day I could be working on fixing something as simple as a
broken connection whereas on another day I could be in front of my computer
designing a circuit. As long as you're always willing to learn and willing
to take the challenge each day, I think you will find everyday can be
exciting and it will never be "routine".
Do you have any robots
designed to assist seniors or the handicap?
We don't have any robots here at NASA Ames that are designed to assist
the elderly or the handicapped. However, there are robots out there
that help these people. At CMU (Carnegie Mellon University), there's
a robot called FLO. This robot was built to help the elderly either
at nursing homes and/or those seniors who are shut-in their homes. FLO
has a speech interface to interact with the seniors and can contact
their doctor or even tell them what's on TV. At Stanford University,
there's a robot called the Helpmate 2000. This robot was built with
the intent to deliver blood and samples in a lab.
Do you have any desire to travel into space to use robotics yourself?
I'm sure that a lot
of people would think that most people working at NASA would want to
travel into space, but that isn't always true. While I enjoy working
towards our NASA mission goals such as exploring space, I don't have
any desire to go up into space myself. To me it's enough to know that
my efforts are helping to further our dreams and hopes of learning more
about places that are yet to be explored.
How long will it be before
robots build a habitat for humans on Mars?
That's a hard question to answer, but if any of us had to take our best
guess we think perhaps 50 years or more. Since we have only begun to
send robots to Mars (the first being the Mars Pathfinder mission), I
think we need to collect as much information as possible about Mars
before we start sending humans to Mars. By sending our robots to Mars,
we can find out a lot of information from pictures taken by the robot
and data taken by sensors on the robot.
from robotics engineer Brett Kennedy:
How long does it take to build the robots you use in space?
In general, the time
it takes us to build robots for space is mostly taken up with thinking
about what we're going to do. For example, the Mars Exploration Rovers
(MERs) started as concepts as long ago as 1998, when we started the
design of the rovers that are now FIDO and K9. The actual detailed design
of the MERs started about 6-8 months ago, and we've just started to
get the pieces made.
Can any of the robots
repair themselves? If they break down can they fix each other?
No robot or probe that
has been sent to space has had the capability to mechanically fix itself.
However, when mechanical problems have come up, the controllers on the
ground have come up with solutions involving a change of software or
operations that have allowed missions to continue. The stuck antenna
on Galileo is a great example of this. Robots that can repair themselves
or other robots are something that we're tackling right now.
How do you communicate with the robots while they are in space?
We use radio waves.
When talking to the probes, we can use powerful transmitters on the
ground to send out our messages. However, the transmitters on the probes
are very weak, so we have to use the huge antennae of the Deep Space
Network to listen.
What size are the robots?
NASA spacecraft have
a wide range of sizes, from the Cassini probe, which is the size of
a school bus, to the Sojourner rover, which is about the size of a microwave.
When their solar panels are deployed, the Mars Exploration Rovers (going
to Mars in 2003) are about the size of a dining table.
When a rover lands, how long does it last on a planetary surface? How
long does a robot live?
The lifetime of a robot
is highly dependant on its design. The Viking landers were functional
for several years. Pathfinder and Sojourner only operated for about
3 months. The Mars Exploration Rovers should have a minimum lifetime
of about 90 days.
How often do you send the robots into space?
For Mars, we try to
fly a mission every other year.
How do you test your
robots before you send them to Mars?
In general, the first
step is to test prototypes of our robots in realistic conditions. We
have tested FIDO, the prototype for the Mars Exploration Rovers, in
the Mojave Desert the last three summers. These tests are both for the
rover (how well does it climb rocks, etc...) and for the operations
crew (how do we command a rover to do what we need...). Next, we build
at least one copy of the design that will be sent out into space and
then we test it, primarily for how it will handle the physical conditions
of flight, landing and operations. Among other things, we strap it to
a machine that shakes it as hard as the rocket will when it launches.
We also test its operations in something called a "cryo-vac"
chamber that can duplicate the cold and relative vacuum of the Martian
from REP staff:
When did you know this would be your field of choice?
Our expert, Linda Kobayashi,
knew she wanted to work with robots from a young age-after she watched
a public television special about robotics. She then studied a lot of
math and science and worked as a high school intern at the NASA Ames
Research Center. After finishing a college degree in electrical engineering,
she began to work full time on robotics for NASA. Our other expert,
Brett Kennedy, became interested in robotics in college and, after getting
his Masters degree in mechanical engineering, began working on robotics
at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
What have you found out about Mars?
Much has been discovered about Mars thanks to robotic technologies and
rovers such as the Viking Landers, the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder,
and others. You can learn much more by visiting the Mars Exploration
web site at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov.
What are some of the civilian, non-space applications that are being developed
to enhance life in conjunction to research being done by NASA in medical,
The Robotics Education Project website (http://robotics.nasa.gov)
is kept up to date with news articles about recent advances in robotics
for daily life. Check back regularly for new information and articles.
Will the robots replace
Rovers going to Mars
are doing that right now. Rovers are the "robotic field geologists"
that can move across the surface of Mars to acquire measurements, images,
and other data to send back to Earth. Since robots are easier and safer
to send, they are doing the early work to help us learn how we might
one day send human astronauts.
What is your favorite
robot you have made? The simplest one? The hardest one?
Robotics engineers work on lots of different projects. You can check
out some of NASA's robotics projects at:
Where can I buy a used robot?
Check out the links on the Robotics Education Project page (http://robotics.nasa.gov/a_links.htm)
Is robotics a good field
for girls to get into? Does NASA have a lot of girls working there?
NASA has women working
in a wide variety of fields and areas, including robotics. Women doing
all kinds of jobs contribute to robotics at NASA. Women engineers, computer
programmers, scientists, artists, photographers, public relations specialists,
teachers, mechanics, technicians, and many others help bring robots
from ideas to reality.
Do you need to take lots
of school to join NASA?
People can work at NASA in varying capacities, from High School interns
to postdoctoral fellows. For more information, please visit the Students
and read about how you might get involved.
How can a High School
student begin work at NASA?
Check out the NASA
Student Programs page: http://www.nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/student_opportunities/
What college classes
are required for getting a job in robotics?
It is different for every individual, but you can be sure that a good
understanding of math, science, technology and communication is very
I am interested in robots. How can I join?
Visit the REP Events page to learn more about competitions and activities
you can do (http://robotics.nasa.gov/a_events.htm)
Can robots work in ice?
Sure-if they are built for it. As an example, the Nomad Rover (http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/projects/meteorobot2000//)
allowed scientists to remotely search for meteorites in Antarctica-a
very icy area!
Of all the attempts to
build a humanlike robot, who and what came the closest? If nothing has
been completed, will anyone try to build one?
There are currently
many groups working to build humanoid robots at places like MIT,
Robotics Institute. You can find more information by searching for
"humanoid robot" on the Internet. There was even an entire
on Humanoid Robots in Japan in November.
My son wants to do a school
report on "robots that perform dangerous tasks", such as law enforcement,
bomb squad, military, volcanic research robots, or other robots that perform
dangerous tasks in lieu of humans. Could you provide me with links that
address these topics?
I would do a search
on "Urban Search and Rescue" robots. Several different types
were used during the WTC recovery effort. Here are 3 websites that discuss
this topic. Other searches could be done on "military robots",
"bomb disposal robots", and "law enforcement robots."
The robot that explores volcanos is called "Dante."
Also, you might suggest
that he research some of NASA's robotic planetary explorers. These are
robots certainly doing jobs too dangerous or impossible for humans!
I am a 9th grade science teacher. I am interested in incorporating a robotic
lab into one of my lesson plans. Are there groups that come to high schools
to perform demonstrations?
If you would like someone to come out to your school you may be able
to get a representative from an educational robotics company like LEGO
or K'nex. You might also post your question to the RoboEducators group
We are interested in obtaining funding for implementing a robotics program
for a group of gifted and talented students at an intermediate school.
Do you have advice on finding funding sources?
I'd suggest that you join the RoboEducators group, coordinated out of
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, since they send out mailings and share
a lot of resources and information (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nRoboEducators/).
Many of the members are trying to develop robotics curricula for the
local or state level and would be glad to help you progress.
My elementary school child is interested in robotics. Is there some information
or instructions on how to construct a robot to promote science and engineering
for young students?
Red Rover, Red Rover is a neat way to get students from K and up interested
in building and controlling robots. It provides an interactive learning
experience through building and operating a LEGO micro-rover with a
camera and the martian terrain to drive it on. You might be able to
interest your student's class in investing in one since students can
also drive other schools' rovers remotely over the Internet. You can
get more information on this program from: http://planetary.org/rrrr/index.html.
For 9-14 year old students,
there are programs that allow students to build
more complex LEGO robots that can follow lines, use sensors, and solve
design challenges. One program is FIRST LEGO League, which uses a LEGO
Mindstorms Kit and gives the students a new challenge to build to each
year. There are then regional and national tournaments where teams compete
in the challenge. More information is available at: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/.
You might also want to check
out our Educators page under "Grades
K-5" for more ideas!
I am interested in participating about learning and building robots. Please
advise me of how to start.
Here are some suggested places for people of all ages interested in
Try making your own nanorover
model at: http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/muses2.htm
Check out this site for
answers to frequently asked questions about Mars rovers: http://wufs.wustl.edu/fido/b_faq.htm
For information from aerospace
to deep space, visit http://quest.arc.nasa.gov
You may also be interested
to know that information on all NASA Education Projects (for students
and for teachers) is contained at http://education.nasa.gov/
If you are interested in
trying to build and program your own robot, try the FIRST Lego League
or FIRST Robotics http://www.usfirst.org.
I am looking for beginner robotics curriculum and materials for elementary
grades. Where might I find such information?
There are some great web sites that can help your students get started:
They can try making their
own nanorover model at: http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/muses2.htm.
There is also a wide range
of activities available at: http://athena.cornell.edu/educators/lesson_plans.html
To try building and programming
a small robot, you might try the FIRST Lego League--maybe you can even
get something started in your school: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/.
The Trinity College Home
Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest is open to competitors of all ages
and is held in Hartford, Connecticut (http://www.trincoll.edu/events/robot/).
Red Rover, Red Rover another
way to get students involved building a simple LEGO robot and martian
terrain. You can get more information on this program from: http://planetary.org/rrrr/index.html.
Also, check out our Educators
page at http://robotics.nasa.gov/a_educators.htm
for other sites that have curricular material.
I am a teacher interested in getting more information about bringing robotics
into my classroom and possibly sharing ideas with other educators who
have similar interests.
Is there any sort of
group I might be able to join to learn more?
There is a group for educators interested in robotics that is coordinated
out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has a corresponding online
group that you can join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nRoboEducators.
There you can post questions and sign up to have the latest information
sent to you via email.
I am a student interested in robot design and control, but I don't know
where to start. I am considering learning to use the PIC microcontroller
to base my studies on but I don't know that much about it. My main goal
is to learn to use my computer to control geared motors precisely, so
I can build my robot. What should I do?
Here's what one of NASA's
The PIC and other controller
chips can be effectively used to build low-level control functions for
a robot, but they are not a good place to start learning about robotics.
The microcontroller is only part of what is needed to develop complex
robot behavior. It's too easy for a beginner to get caught up in just
trying to control a servo or to adjust the power to a motor based on
some sensor input. The real pay-off in my mind is if you can avoid the
control details and write a program which supervises many low-level
behaviors so that, for example, a robot can search for the direction
to a light, move toward it until some intensity is reached, and then
reach out, until it touches the light structure and move the structure
for some purpose. All the while it should also be able to test internally
to see if time limits are exceeded or if a motor is stalled and execute
some recovery action based on sensing these conditions. To design a
robot with hardware and software which can do all these things requires:
(1) a microcontrolling system with memory, a set of input ports, output
ports, a digital clock, a power supply, a programming interface to a
host computer with a high-level programming environment, and libraries
of input and output functions; (2) a set of motors, servos, light and
touch sensors, and structural elements compatible with the microcontroller
and the sensors, motors, etc.
I only know of a couple of
kits that satisfy most of these requirements: (1) the LEGO Mindstorms
Invention System (http://www.rentron.com/Lego_Mindstorms.htm,
Limited input/output and no servo drivers, and I recommend using "Not
Quite C" programming environment for Windows95-2000, available
as a free download); and (2) The MIT Handy Board kits (one with many
servos and sensors and LEGO parts and "Interactive C" programming
Other kits are being developed (including one using a PIC microprocessor
and an interface to a Palm Pilot, for programming and high-level running,
from Acroname Inc.) and may satisfy all of these requirements, but I
don't have experience with them as yet. A good way to get started with
other interested students, and support from your local school and community
would be to participate in either the FIRST LEGO League Competition
for middle school students (http://www.firstlegoleague.org/),
or Botball Tournaments for upper middle school and high school students
All the products and organizations can be further described on their
web sites. NASA does not endorse these organizations, but is a contributing
sponsor and host for the competitions as part of our Robotics Education
I am interested in building a remote controlled car satisfying the following
criteria 1. Rugged--one that can survive a jump of 8 inches. 2. Fairly
maneuverable in 2-inch deep sand. I intend to use a 2-wheel drive, one
motor for each wheel and provide differential action (for left and right
turn) by turning the motors on/off separately, with the m/c going forward
if both the motors are on. To bring my idea to reality, what components
do I need? What should be the size/rating of the motor? What should the
control ckt be made up off? I intend to use IC555 to generate the PWM.
How can that be done? If the remote is to be wired to the motors on the
craft then what kind of switches should I be using? Will an old dot matrix
printer provide me 2 motors and 2 driving ckts for independent control?
If that is not possible what type of motor should I use for fairly constant
torque and good speed? Basically, I'd like to find out the step-by-step
procedure for building a wired remote controlled vehicle which can beat
competition when it comes to racing day.
It sounds likeeverything you need is really available commercially.
The car could certainly be built from parts available at a hobby shop
or even motors from a junkyard. A regular Radio control system for a
car or plane would work, The 'trick' is to buy two good PWM speed controllers
for the right and left wheel. PWM speed controllers are expensive but
are the key to controlling most of the robots used in competitions like
FIRST or Battlebots. You can look at this site: http://www.innovationfirst.com
- FIRST robotics -victor 833 to learn about PWM controllers. The FIRST
system costs $2000, but several companies make PWM controllers that
work with standard radio control servo outputs.
I need help finding out something about finding out what voltages I need
for parts on a photovore. The web site I got the schematic from is http://www.members.aon.at/sunbeam/photovore.htm
and I was wondering if you could tell me how to figure it out for myself.
Please keep in mind that I am new to electronics and I don't know very
The circuit shows the power comes from a solar cell, but doesn't say
how many volts the solar cell puts out. I would guess this circuit would
work with a 3.5V solar cell, which is pretty common. BEAM robots typically
use low power/voltage components so 5 volts is probably the max - the
pager motors expect about 1.5 volts. If you look at the parts you'll
see the part numbers on the circuit diagram - if you take the diagram
with you to a RadioShack you can start looking up the parts in an Integrated
or Solid State circuit guide to get the specifications. A good book
on making electronic projects should help. A weekend trip to the library
to look at electronic hobbyist books would help - the books from TAB
are good, as well as back issues of magazines like Popular Electronics.
There are web sites that
have the parts specifications - but I think the best way to start making
BEAM robots is to find a club near by and make some new friends - I
am sure they can help you. If there are no robot clubs nearby - try
some HAM radio operators.
How do you build a remote control robot?
Well, the simplest way is to buy the $200 LEGO Mindstorms robotics invention
set. However, with a lot more effort you can modify a $10 toy car and
about $50 worth of circuits into a BEAM light follower. If you have
a Palm pilot there is a $300 kit from acroname that you can build. There
are also other projects you can learn about at http://robotics.nasa.gov/students/projects.htm
or at http://robot-news.com/tele-rover/.
You should also check out the "Getting
Started" page: http://www.robots.org/GettingStarted.htm
I am in a competition that involves building a robot that can pick up
and lift items no bigger than toilet paper cardboard tubes. The dimensions
can be no bigger than 30cm by 30cm by 30cm. Currently I have a design
that can do it but it is not a good design -- it is not that maneuverable
and I need it to be able to move 360 degrees so I don't have to turn the
vehicle that it sits on around. Could you please help me out and give
an idea on a simple arm design that can pick things up and lift them up
Sounds like you need to mount your gripper on some sort of turntable.
I think it would be easier to build your robot to turn 360 degrees.
I would build a tracked or two-wheeled robot with a two degrees of freedom
arm. You might also check out the LEGO 'scout' robot that has a design
that uses one motor to build an arm that grabs and then lifts.
What is the kinematics
model (inverse and direct) for a Nomad 200 robot (a base-synchro-drive-platform
robot)? Any suggestion?
It seems that the Nomad is not being produced any more, but they do
have a support email: email@example.com.
is a manual for the Nomad Scout robot - maybe that can help you.
I want to build a robotic arm joint using dc motor position control system
& 3D fuzzy state system. Could you tell me where I could find information
about it (especially about how to control the position of dc motor)?
There are two types of DC motors - regular and stepper (or servo motors).
Either can be used. To control a regular motor you need to build some
sort of encoder. There are hundreds of types of encoders from simple
switches to infrared proximity.
I think a Google web search
(http://www.google.com) on the topics "robotic control," "DC
motor control", "shaft encoder", "stepper motor",
"servo motor" would be useful.
There is also a lot of information on the Internet under the topic "LEGO
I can't help with 3-D fuzzy
logic - but I believe many modern camcorders use fuzzy logic + infrared
range sensors to focus the lens.
I want to make an arm extend. Can you help?
There are 4 ways I can think of off hand.....
1. Scissors lift - like on an auto jack. (good for short arms, bad for
2. Big Screw or gear driven treads (auto seat positioning motor) - expensive
3. Chain elevator (could double in size--use lever bolted to chain -
auto window-lift motor works this way.)
4. Cable or rope through telescoping tubing to a winch (can grow with
as many nested tubes as there are.) This is easiest to prototype--use
PVC pipe 1", 3/4" 1/2" and some nylon cord.
#3 and #4 are better choices.
What kind of controllers do you use?
In the various robotics competitions we use a variety of controllers.
These include the RCX (Lego minstorms) and the HandyBoard. For FIRST
we use the radio controller produced by Innovation FIRST. Many hobby
robots use BASIC Stamp controllers. Bigger NASA prototypes use custom
controllers running off Linux Pentium systems. Some robots don't use
controllers exactly. Beam robots use custom circuits that act like a
neural net. There is also a robot that will hook up to a Palm Pilot
from a company called Acroname.
What types of debris collect on the solar panels in space?
I don't know what, if anything, collects on solar panels in space -
They probably accumulate damage from Solar Wind, Cosmic Rays, Micro
meteorites and space debris impacts. Maybe a robot that inspects solar
panels in space or cleans dusty panels on Mars is more appropriate.
What methods can we use to clean the debris? (We were thinking of using
electrostatics, since we obvious can't use soap and water. Is this a good
I don't know that electrostatics is a good idea in a vacuum. Jumping
big sparks off your robot into a solar panel is probably bad for both
the panel and the robot. Cleaning panels in free fall is going to be
tough - every time you touch a panel you would tend to launch yourself
away from it. An inspection robot would probably move using puffs of
gas or some type of magnetic traction - since solar panels are usually
not magnetic - this would be a problem.
What types of material are generally used to make up robots in space?
(We were thinking of aluminum, but what is the advantage of using aluminum,
There are lots of problems in exposing robots to vacuum, but I would
be more worried about my moving parts, batteries etc - how can they
be made to work in the extreme environment - thermal shock, vacuum,
charged particles - etc. Actually the Canadian designed Space Shuttle
Manipulator Arm is a good place to begin your research - how did the
engineers solve the problems of which materials to use?
Dr. robot, Could you give me some web sites to help me understand how
to make a robot turning right and left in C language? Where can I download
linux? Which website is most helpful?
I suggest you visit the sites http://www.kipr.org
In a nutshell, if you
build a robot that has two motors attached to two wheels, turning on
both motors forward will make you go straight, turning on one forward
and one in reverse will make you spin in one direction, reversing the
polarity will make you spin in the other direction. If you can control
how long you have each motor on, you will be able to steer the robot.
NQC is a C-like programming
environment for the LEGO RCX robotics brick. You can download it for
free from the Internet. There are versions for Windows systems, but
I am not sure about linux.
A group of students at my school has formed a team to participate in FIRST
Robotics Competitions. We would like more information on when and how
may apply for a NASA Sponsorship.
NASA Centers all around the country provide sponsorships for first-
and second-year teams based on an online application process. The application
will be available early this fall on the REP website and will need to
be completed by an adult organizer (like a teacher or mentor). Although
NASA sponsorships cover the costs of the robotics kit, teams often also
contact corporations or other entities in their area for additional
sponsorship and mentors. Please visit the REP website this fall for
more information: http://robotics.nasa.gov.
How can I watch the FIRST and Botball competitions on television or the
The Robotics Education Project often webcasts FIRST and Botball Regional
and National competitions. Regionals take place from February through
May, the FIRST Nationals are in April and the Botball Nationals are
in August. The REP site provides
information and links to these webcasts and also an archive of past
From time to time, NASA TV
broadcasts FIRST robotics competitions. You may access NASA TV using
the following satellite coordinates/information:
GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band,
located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization
is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.
Robotics Employment and Study
I am interested in learning more about robotics and I have some knowledge
of C, C++ and Java. I'd like to join a course. If your course is a correspondence
course, then I'd be interested in it. Please give me the details of your
Thanks for your interest in our online robotics course. The course will
be given over an 8-week period starting in late spring 2002 and will
be available free on the web. It will highlight some of the new and
exciting applications of robotics and what research is being done. Please
check back on our web site for more information about the course and
how to participate.
I am a high school student interested in science, math, and technology.
Do you know how I might find out what opportunities NASA has for robotics
Opportunities for robotics engineers at NASA continue to grow as robotic
space exploration becomes a priority.
To get involved with hands-on
robotics while you are still in high school, consider participating
in FIRST, Botball,
or other robotics competitions.
Through participation in programs such as these, you and your teammates
have the opportunity to build a robot to respond to the competition
parameters and then face off against other teams regionally and nationwide.
As you start to look at colleges,
consider a college that has a program in robotics. Such programs can
be found by looking at the Universities
and Government list and the University
robotics list. You also might want to look into NASA's Student
Programs. When you're ready to look for a job, try the NASA-wide
jobs and Spaceflight
jobs web sites.
I have some questions about what roboticists do for their job. Is there
someone who could answer them for me?
Here are a NASA engineer's
answers to your questions:
1. Why are you interested
I am primarily interested
in space exploration and right now robotics is a very big part of space
2. What kinds of projects
are you working on?
I am working on two projects.
The first one is a project to get a mobile robot (like the Mars rover)
to learn how to move through rough terrain. The second one is a project
to develop a free-floating robot to fly around inside of the space station
and provide astronauts with assistance in performing experiments.
3. Are there any things
you have to do on a daily basis?
Things I do on a daily basis
include: designing and writing computer programs, mostly in C and C++;
fixing or adding hardware components to our existing robots; reading
technical papers about robotics; and designing new hardware and software.
4. What advice would you
give to a beginner interested in robotics?
Get involved in hobbies like
radio control cars, boats, or airplanes. This will teach you the basics
of remotely operated vehicles and robots. Get the Lego Mindstorms kit
and start building and programming simple robots. Learn computer programming.
Learn about microcontrollers and basic electronics.
5. What is the hardest
part of building robots, and why?
Getting them to do something
intelligent. We take for granted how hard it is to do our normal day-to-day
activities such as walking without falling down, going up or down stairs,
picking something up without crushing it, or figuring out what we are
going to do next. Programming these kinds of abilities into a robot
is very difficult.
6. Do you think robotics
will have many career opportunities in the future?
I think there will be many
career opportunities that involve robotics. There are many different
kinds of applications for robotics such as entertainment, construction,
space exploration, assembly, software agents, etc. It would be a good
idea to specialize in an area of robotics that interested you the most.
I'm a student in Computer Information Systems and this semester I've taken
"robotics and machine vision" as an elective course. I'm doing
a paper on robots with odor sensors and I would like you to inform me
on their uses or suggest some links related to my subject.
This is an interesting topic.
The sense of smell is very complex and a lot harder to model than touch,
hearing or vision. It is also more difficult to produce a robot nose.
Light and sound are one type of energy, touch is basically temperature
and pressure (two types of information), but sense of smell is the ability
to detect thousands of different chemical compounds. In the lab this
is done by a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer which identifies compounds
by chemical characteristics. Noses do this with specialized sensors
specific for certain compounds.
Advances in nanotechnology
and biotechnology will certainly make it easier to identify certain
compounds, but a robot bloodhound is far off. Likewise I think prosthetic
eyes and ears will likely be available long before a nose.
But perhaps building a robot
that can smell a flower or detect the quality of a wine is not what
we need. Perhaps a robot that can detect carbon dioxide or other odorless
but hazardous substances is much better. Here is an article that might
be of interest.
Can you tell me the history of robotics?
are some links to get you started:
Why are you using robots to explore a asteroid?
Scientists believe that some asteroids are made up of materials that
are the same as those original materials, which formed planets very
long ago. Some asteroids are relatively unaltered since the planets
formed. That is, they are unchanged and contain primitive materials.
By studying the structure and chemical makeup of such asteroids, scientists
can get clues about the initial composition of our own planet Earth
and the conditions under which it formed billions of years ago.
One way to get close enough
to explore asteroids and take measurements of their material properties
is by using robots, with cameras and scientific instruments that can
transmit data and information about asteroid structure and chemical
composition to scientists on Earth. (The same can be said of comets.)
A spacecraft can orbit an asteroid and take remote measurements without
landing on the asteroid, but a robot that can land and move around on
the surface can take very close-up measurements that provide more useful
information. Space scientists at NASA and other space agencies on Earth
would study the images and data acquired by the robot and transmitted
back to earth.
In addition, asteroids contain
an abundance of the same raw materials as Earth, which are very important
resources for our current way of life. Many scientists and commercial
businesses (besides space scientists) are also interested in using robots
in the future to mine asteroids, that is, to extract raw materials for
use on Earth.
Still more questions??? Ask Dr.