The first two weeks of the program are finished and it seems like we’ve just begun. I mainly spent the first week after arrival getting myself oriented to Menomonie and meeting my fellow researchers. Towards the end of our first week, Megan, Ryan, and I met with Devin for the first time to start to figure out the direction for our project. We are working on augmenting an existing prototype continuum robotic arm with a second segment and looking into applications for this “snake-like” robot. We are particularly interested in using this technology to build robots that can work closely alongside humans, due to the intrinsic safety of soft robots. Specifically, our team is looking to develop our current prototype for use in assistive technology and rehabilitation. We would like to be able to use our arm to help people who have lost range of motion in their upper extremities, and are currently investigating who our target audience may be.
On the more technical side of things, my main job for the last week has been a complete overhaul of the existing electronics system on the prototype. I both simplified the existing system and added the necessary extra components to control the second segment (which should be completed relatively soon). I also worked alongside Megan on some of the control aspects of the arm. Additionally the prototype (including the arduinos) is now powered using an old ATX power supply which can deliver the necessary current to run both segments concurrently.
Our research prospects for this summer look bright, and we are well on our way to completing a project by the end of this program. Hopefully things continue to go well and we can produce something that truly furthers the state of the art in continuum robotics.