RPI adopted MATLAB and Simulink to develop robotic control systems for course assignments and for undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research projects.
Students in Robotics 1 use MATLAB to complete homework assignments and develop control algorithms throughout the course before forming teams to tackle a final project.
Teams of two or three students conceive a project idea and then implement it by developing control algorithms with MATLAB for a Geomagic Touch robot—a stationary robot with three degrees of freedom. To control the robot, students use MATLAB Compiler™ to build a DLL that works with Robot Raconteur®, a communication library for robotics and automation systems developed by Dr. John Wason, a former member of Dr. Wen’s group.
On past projects, students developed MATLAB algorithms that direct a single robot to trace a shape in the air with an LED and coordinate the movements of three robots to lift a foam ball.
The research projects sponsored by faculty and undertaken by undergraduate and graduate RPI students are more sophisticated, and involve more advanced robots than those developed in Robotics 1.
For these projects, students use MATLAB, Simulink, and Control System Toolbox™ to develop control algorithms for Baxter and Motoman industrial robots and for Zeno, a humanoid robot from Hanson Robotics.
On one project, students used MATLAB, Image Processing Toolbox™, and Computer Vision Toolbox™ to create algorithms that incorporate video from stationary and robot-mounted cameras as input.
On another project, three undergraduates mounted a Baxter robot on an electric wheelchair and used MATLAB to develop control algorithms to direct the chair and the robotic arm. The students also built a 3D simulation of the system interacting with its environment using MATLAB visualization functions.
Dr. Wen uses MATLAB and Simulink in his own research. Using object-oriented programming in MATLAB to access Robot Raconteur services, his group developed a control system for a mobile robot powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium ion battery. They also developed a graphical interface in MATLAB. Accessed via an Apple iPad, the interface displays the amount of hydrogen remaining onboard and the battery’s state of charge.
Current research projects include developing assistive technology for individuals with disabilities by enhancing the mobile Baxter.