|The Mines Robot Pentathlon team competes in the stair climbing competition at E-Fest West.|
|The Mines Robot Pentathlon team competes in the stair climbing competition at E-Fest West.|
Colorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Xiaoli Zhang has received an NSF CAREER award for her project on human-robot interaction teleoperations.
“My work is focused on how humans and robots collaborate, especially in teleoperations where the human and the robot are not in the same location,” said Zhang. Normally the user is operating a keyboard, a mouse or a joystick to remotely operate the robot. Teleoperations involves several challenges, such as the indirect visualization and manipulation, as well as the discrepancy between the robotic grip and the device being used to manipulate it.
Zhang explained, “Even using a data glove, the physical structure of a human hand and the robot’s hand are extremely different. If we want robots to do fine manipulations like a human can, we must solve this control problem.”
One of the most successful employments of robotic teleoperations is in a hospital surgical room, where it might be used to remove a gallbladder through a surgical robot. However, there are several situations where teleoperations are also extremely helpful, such as in repairing or inspecting mines, space exploration, search and rescue operations and anywhere that is difficult or dangerous for humans to access.
“The field of robotics is growing quickly, and robots are getting smarter,” said Zhang. “Ultimately, if we want a robot to think like a human, to be intelligent and have autonomy and the capability to regulate itself in order to work with humans, the robots have to first become more aware of how humans achieve those things. Even when it comes to something as simple as picking up a cup, there are multiple ways we approach it, depending on whether our goal is to pass it someone else, place it on a shelf, drink from it or wash it. We have to investigate our own behavior patterns in order to formulate a knowledge-based model through machine learning methods for a robot.”
The primary research goal of this project is to develop a novel goal-guided control interface. Instead of passively following the operator’s motion input, the robot will understand the operator's high-level objective during an object-grasping operation and autonomously conform to task constraints in order to reduce control difficulties and ensure the success of subsequent manipulation.
Another component of Zhang’s research is improving distance learning systems using robotic teleoperations. When students are in a different location than the instructor, it is challenge to involve students physically. Zhang hopes to develop an interactive distance learning system that will involve remote students using teleoperated robots. The system will immerse remote users in the classroom environment through student tele-controlling of a robot's arms and hands for object manipulation and/or interaction with other classmates in the classroom. Its immersive nature will enable remote users to feel present in the classroom and engaged in class activities.
Ultimately Zhang hopes to reduce the control burden on the human operator, and as she puts it, “the goal is and always has been to improve how robots can help humans.”
The National Science Foundation CAREER award is the most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.
Written by Deirdre O. Keating
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | email@example.com
Pig Patrol, a team of seven mechanical engineering seniors at Colorado School of Mines, received first place in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Fall Senior Design Trade Fair on December 1, 2016. They designed an integrated cleaning and inspection pig (ICIP) that can collect data more frequently and affordably, without interrupting the pipeline flow.
“Pigging” is a common term in pipeline management, referring to devices known as “pigs” that perform maintenance operations. The name originally referred to the squealing noise the early devices made while traveling in the pipe.
“Basically we need to find defects along the inside of oil pipelines so that pipes don’t rupture,” explained team member Kyle Crews. “We designed a robot that can travel along the inside of the pipeline, find the defects and report them back using a unique sensor that could have a big impact on this market. Our design allows for more frequent testing in a cost-effective way.”
The team is working to possibly take to market the sensor technology that they adapted in the design of their pig. The team’s design acquires lower quality data but in a higher quantity that would allow companies to run the ICIP every time the pipeline is cleaned, rather than every couple of years.
“We have a really close-knit team,” said Crews, “and want to take this forward after graduation, even though several of us are moving out of state. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from people in the industry. We also want to thank our client, Craig Champlin, and our faculty advisor, Jered Dean, who really guided us along over the past two semesters.”
The +4 Designs team received second place for their design of an adjustable down-hole probe-centralizer to be used in geophysical testing by their client, Mount Sopris Instruments. The third place team, Dynamic Hydration Systems, created a hydration system intended for endurance auto racing drivers. They built and tested a system that delivers hydration to the driver without detracting from the driver’s focus through a refillable and detachable component.
Other projects included two for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one developing an online method for measuring the residence time distribution for a biofuel pre-treatment reactor and the other an instrumentation system to determine the physical level and density of process material inside a thermochemical hydrolysis reactor.
Several teams presented projects aimed at improving Mines’ campus, such as an electrical system aimed at allowing the Starzer Welcome Center to function for 48 hours during an interruption of service and another that looked at better stormwater management through the use of green infrastructure.
Mines Formula Society of Automotive Engineers also presented an aerodynamic design for the car they will use in their 2017 competition in Nebraska. Students from Mines Human Centered Design Studio presented early prototypes of their adaptive equipment designs, even though they will be competing in the spring trade fair.
Trade Fair Winners
1st Place – Pig Patrol – Integrated Cleaning and Inspection Pipeline Pigging Robot
Students: Logan Nichols, Evan Marshall, Grant DeShazer, Evan Thomas, Matthew Atherton, Victoria Steffens, Kyle Crews
Client: Craig Champlin
Adivsor: Jered Dean
Consultant: John Steele
2nd Place – +4 Designs – Adjustable Downhole Centralizer
Students: Steven Blickley, Nick Markel, Jenevieve Parker, Steven Staszak
Clients: Mount Sopris Instruments: Curtis Baker, Jody DuMond
Advisor: Buddy Haun
Consultants: Jered Dean
3rd Place – Dynamic Hydration Systems - Endurance Auto Racing Hydration System Challenge
Students: Will Bennett, Matt Craig, Jaime DuBois, Kaan Korkmaz, Allen Jackson, Ry Walter
Client: Scott Durham
Advisor: Robin Steele
Consultants: Robert Amaro
Broader Impacts Essay Winners
1st Place - “Are Electric Vehicles More Brown than Green?” by Kelly Dempsey
2nd Place – “Learning to Drive” by Ben Koehler
3rd Place – “The Broader Impacts of Design Choices in the Airline Industry” by Connor Groeneweg
Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | email@example.com
The Colorado School of Mines Robotics Club is working on a variety of projects, ranging from autonomous vehicle competitions to robotics competitions for NASA.
|Natalie Kalin is the vice president of Robotics Club and is currently working on the NASA Space Grant Consortium Robotics Challenge.|
Natalie Kalin, the vice president of the Robotics Club, is currently working on the NASA Space Grant Consortium Robotics Challenge. Her team aims to construct a robot that can navigate the sand dunes in Colorado, which is considered the closest Mars-like environment on Earth. As one of the team leaders, Kalin explained that the challenge is “more of a team collaborative effort. It’s not a first, second, third place competitive event. Ultimately, the goal is to build the best robot we can build and have something that can navigate on Mars.”
As treasurer of the Robotics Club, Sevy Swift is currently working on the Power Wheels Race for Sparkfun, a company in Boulder, Colorado that hosts a variety of competitions every year. The Power Wheels competition has participants “take an old battery-powered power wheels and make it the best go-kart you could make it,” said Swift. “You get $500 to spend, and then you drive it against other [go-karts].”
|Nhan Tran is president of the Robotics Club and a computer science major, putting his technical skills to the test.|
While not a mechanical engineering major like Kalin and Swift, Nhan Tran, president of the Robotics Club, is a still an integral part of the team, using his technical capabilities as a computer science major to support robotics projects. “Blasterbotica is the senior mechanical design team,” Kalin explains. Due to Tran’s background in software, he has the skills necessary to “help with the computer part of Blasterbotica,” she said. Tran proves that you don’t have to be a mechanical engineer to be involved in robotics at Mines.
When asked what the team’s ultimate goal is for the Robotics Club, the three Mines students looked at each other and smiled. “I would love for us to get on the BattleBots show,” Kalin said. “BattleBots,” a reality-television program on ABC, features well-designed, homemade robots that battle each other to destruction in a tournament-style format until one champion remains.
“Another goal is to allow Mines students to participate in these projects and learn robotics,” said Swift. The 40 members of the Robotics Club are currently working on six different projects and welcoming any new students that want to learn more about robotics. “We want students to become more hands on, more engaged and have this school well-known for robotics,” Kalin added.
To support the Robotics Club in all of their current and future endeavors, visit giving.mines.edu/goldmine.
The College of Engineering and Computational Sciences hosted their annual Senior Design Trade Fair on April 28 at Lockridge Arena. Thirty-nine interdisciplinary teams presented their year-long capstone projects. Alumni, faculty and industry leaders served as judges, evaluating the teams on their ability to define, analyze and address the problems of real clients.
The first place winning team was MINESat, a team of six electrical engineering, six mechanical engineering, and two engineering physics students who worked under the direction of the Antennas and Wireless Communications (AWC) Group in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department. Building on the work of last year’s initial CubeSat team, the team developed and tested a fully-functional CubeSAT bus with ground station to meet NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative requirements.
“The biggest accomplishments were the development of the software and hardware to make a UHF half-duplex wireless communications system possible, and developing versatile software for the space-rated flight board that will serve future Cubesat teams,” said team member Kyle Patel.
Payam Nayeri, EECS Assistant Professor and faculty advisor to the team, attributed the team success to the team’s dedication and attention to detail. “From early on in the project, they were able to gain a good understanding of the problem on a system level,” said Nayeri. “This translated directly to allocating proper time and manpower to every one of the subsystems in the satellite. Thanks to the exceptional technical leads of the project, Kyle Patel and David Hodge, Mines has taken a big step towards launching its first satellite.”
The ground station for the Cubesat program is in the process of being built on the roof of Brown Building. “Expect to see Cubesat more and more around campus in years to come,” predicts Patel.
Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s Senior Design Trade Fair:
Client: Dr. Randy Haupt
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Payam Nayeri
Consultants: Dr. Atef Elsherbeni, Dr. Ozkan Celik
Client: Mary Page Smith
Faculty Advisor: Prof. Eric Bonnema
Consultants: Dr. Linda Layne, Dr. Jeff Schowalter
3rd Place: TIE – Maple Hall Retrofit Team & ESP Consulting
Client: John Macpherson, Baker Hughes
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Yitz Finch
Consultants: Dr. Ray Zhang, Prof. Buddy Haun
Client: Dr. Paulo Tabares
Faculty Advisor: Prof. Eric Bonnema
Consultants: Dr. Neal Sullivan
Client: Emily Woods, Sanivation
Faculty Advisor: Prof. Lee Landkamer
Consultants: Dr. Tzahi Cath, Prof. Ben Teschner
Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering and Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | email@example.com
Imagining cookie crumbs as dirt and gummy worms as organic matter, Colorado School of Mines students introduced elementary school students to the concept of oil and gas formation in one of several science demonstrations held during the 6th Annual Math & Science Night at Shelton Elementary on Nov. 4.
Mines students had a large presence at the math and science expo: The Water-Energy, Science and Technology (WE²ST) Center ran nine stations and several other Mines student organizations also participated. Shelton’s Math & Science Night provides parents and students a fun, engaging and hands-on learning environment with the goal to get students excited about math and science.
Karen Brown, principal of Shelton, attributed the success of the program to the participation of Mines students. “We are so thrilled to have built a partnership with Mines and its students,” said Brown.
“Since its inception, Shelton’s Math and Science Night has always been well attended because of the expertise and fun the Mines students, as well as other presenters, bring to the table,” Brown continued. “They are also great role models for our students.”
According to Andrea Blaine, assistant director of WE²ST, “one of the strongest aspects of WE²ST’s participation was our ability to establish a meaningful connection between Mines and the larger community. Our presence at the event allowed us to educate children and adults on important current environmental topics, such as water and energy, in a non-threatening, fun atmosphere.”
In addition to the edible “fossil fuels” demonstration, students used a four-foot square model to see the paths of water within a watershed and community at the EnviroScape station and received hands-on experience learning about osmosis, the properties of gasses, aquifer sand tanks, and water use in the U.S. compared to other countries.
“It really is fantastic and wonderful that Shelton offers this type of thing,” said Alison Bodor, a Shelton Elementary School parent, who complimented WE²ST in particular on their organization.
Mines Blasterbotica Team, dressed like cowboys for the event’s Wild West theme, also had a large number of participants. They demonstrated how robots could be used for mining in space exploration.
Mines’ Nao robot, “Gold,” was a star attraction for the children. Mechanical Engineering Professor John Steele encouraged his student Steven Emerson to participate and showcase the robot.
“She was a big hit. The kids seemed a little awestruck when she did her choreographed demo,” Emerson said. He also noted that teaming up with the Mines Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) chapter helped, as they provided other demos that allowed the robot time to cool off between groups of children.
Mines Society of Geophysicists, Society of Physics Students, Society of Women Engineers, the Integrated GroundWater Modeling Center at Mines, and the Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt) Research Center also set up hands-on learning demonstrations for the students of Shelton Elementary School.
Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | email@example.com
In the sixth annual and largest NASA Robotic Mining Competition, a team of 14 Mines students will be competing against 53 teams from all over the nation to design and build a mining rover.
The senior design team, Blasterbotica, is taking apart last year’s rover and building new components to build a smaller rover for the competition May 18-22 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The rover will have to traverse a simulated Martian terrain, excavate regolith and gravel and deposit them into a collector bin within 10 minutes. The winning team will receive the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence trophy, KSC launch invitations, team certificates for each member and a $5,000 team scholarship.
It’s unusual for teams to build a new rover instead of improving the previous team's rover, but Blasterbotica thinks this will give them an advantage.
“Ours will have a regolith delivery system made up of a bucket ladder and dumping system,” said David Long, mechanical engineering student. “We have created a unique method to lower the excavator, allowing it to go from perpendicular to vertical to almost horizontal. We can lower it in as deep as we want. This will give us a lot more mobility in terms of how we want to excavate.”
One of the challenges the team faces is staying within the weight and size limitations of the contest. The students received a donation from Lockheed Martin to fund their lightweight materials, such as aluminum and steel for the frame and polycarbonate for dust shielding and electronic boxes.
“It has to be durable because we want future teams to be able to use it,” said mechanical engineering student Nichole Cusack. “We will be using chains similar to ones you might see on a bucket ladder. This allows us to get better traction and turn easier so the treads don’t sink in.”
Last year, the team lost functionality in the rover during the competition because they used a faulty interface. To prevent that from happening again, the team will be using LINUX to allow for flexibility in driving the rover.
“We can’t sense the walls in the arena this year so we have to use inertial measurement units and camera vision to determine location,” said Long. “Power monitoring the rover is a big deal.”
The team is working quickly to have a build done by early April in order to have a month of testing. Since October, the team has delivered STEM presentations using previous rovers to area schools, such as Bell Middle School, Powderhorn Elementary School, Foothills Elementary School, Coal Creek Canyon Elementary School and Mitchell Elementary School.
Blasterbotica is comprised of students in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. The team’s faculty advisors include mechanical engineering professors Christopher Dreyer and Ozkan Celik. Their client is Angel Abbud Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at Mines.
The Senior Design Program is part of the College of Engineering & Computational Sciences, and is a creative multidisciplinary design experience emerging from combined efforts in civil, electrical, mechanical, and environmental specialties in engineering.
Colorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering professor Xiaoli Zhang and graduate student Songpo Li have developed a gaze-contingent-controlled robotic laparoscope system that can help surgeons better perform laparoscopic surgery.
Laparoscopy is an operation performed in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions with a camera. Laparoscopic instruments (typically 0.5-1 centimeters in diameter) are inserted through small incisions and then operated inside a patient’s body together with a laparoscope that allows the surgeon to see the surgical field on a monitor. Unlike open surgery, laparoscopic surgeries have reduced scarring, lessened blood loss, shorter recovery times and decreased post-operative pain. But due to limitations of holding and positioning the laparoscope, surgeons struggle with physiologic tremors, fatigue and the fulcrum effect.
Zhang and Li’s attention-aware robotic laparoscope aims to eliminate some of these physical and mental burdens.
“The robot arm holds the camera so the surgeon doesn’t have to,” Zhang said, noting that the camera is controlled effortlessly. “Wherever you look, the camera will autonomously follow your viewing attention. It frees the surgeon from laparoscope intervention so the surgeon can focus on instrument manipulation only.”
Their system tracks the surgeon’s viewing attention by analyzing gaze data. When the surgeon’s eyes stop on a new fixation area, the robot adjusts the laparoscope to show a different field of view that focuses on the new area of interest.
To validate the effectiveness of this procedure, the team tested six participants on visualization tasks. Participants reported “they could naturally interact with the field of view without feeling the existence of the robotic laparoscope.”
Zhang and Li anticipate that their technologies could have more than just healthcare applications, such as being used for the disabled and the elderly, who may have difficulty with upper-limb movements.
“Using this system, the surgeon can perform the operation solo, which has great practicability in situations like the battlefield and others with limited human resources,” Li said.
In mid September, Li received the Colorado Innovation S.T.A.R.S. challenge award for “Best Technical Achievement” at the college level during the JeffCo Innovation Faire. Zhang and Li are working with clinical researchers and industry partners to commercialize their attention-aware robotic laparoscope.
Mechanical engineering graduate student Songpo Li received the Colorado Innovation S.T.A.R.S. challenge award for “Best Technical Achievement” at the college level during the JeffCo Innovation Faire Sept. 12. Li’s research project, “Gaze-Driven Automated Robotic Laparoscope System,” allows surgeons to interact with the laparoscopic vision easier and more naturally using their gaze, while freeing both their hands for manipulating the surgical instruments in laparoscopic surgery.
“It was a great opportunity to demonstrate our research results to the public through the Innovation Faire, and it was also my great honor and pleasure to receive this award,” Li said. “Using this system, the surgeon can perform the operation solo, which has great practicability in situations like the battlefield and others with limited human resources.”
Submissions were awarded based on research that was "original thinking and solved a real problem."
Mechanical engineering professor Ozkan Celik and two Mines students have designed a robotic exoskeleton, named the Wrist Gimbal, which would assist stroke patients to complete repetitive movement therapy tasks. Based on a previous model Celik designed, this new robotic device focuses on two rotational degrees of freedom and would cost less than $5,000.
Robots have degrees of freedom, otherwise known as joints that enable their movements. Each revolute joint creates one rotational degree of freedom. As the team decreased the degrees of freedom from three to two in the new device, they used more balanced and robust materials and created an improved intuitive visual interface.
“The degree of freedom we eliminated was wrist abduction and adduction—which has the smallest range of motion among the three,” Celik said. “Also, exercising wrist flexion and extension can be expected to benefit abduction and adduction as some muscles are involved in both movements.”
Since wheelchairs are not uncommon for stroke patients, the team developed a robotic exoskeleton that a stroke patient could be strapped into while seated. Patients would hold onto the device and use wrist movements to complete assessment exercises that would determine their maximum range of motion. The robot applies force to aid or deter movements, and records responses in particular tasks.
“The device provides motivation,” Celik said. “Our game-like interface exerts assistive forces to stimulate patients and prompt them to complete exercises with assistance.”
Senior mechanical engineering student and president of Robotics Club David Long worked on the mechanical design and 3D printed, machined and laser cut several of the parts of the device and specialized in the robot’s control system.
“Feedback control is one of those classes I took last semester that I didn’t think I was going to use much. Then suddenly, that’s all I did all summer and it was great because when you see something theoretical like that and apply it in practice, it really gives you a lot of faith in course work,” Long said. “I am going to be using it for a long time.”
Graduate mechanical engineering student Hossein Saadatzi is currently working on the kinematics and dynamics of the device and developing an active gravity compensation method that would allow the robot to provide more accurate force feedback.
“In my graduate study, I wanted to improve my skills in practical and experimental work,” Saadatzi said. “I chose biomechatronics because I can apply my knowledge to help patients get better.”