Update 1 – Megan

The first two weeks of the program flew by, and I feel like I’ve already gotten so much out of it. UW-Stout’s campus is really nice and small enough that most things are within walking distance. There are also a lot of neat little cafes and restaurants around campus, and we’ve had a lot of fun trying some of them out. I’m already a regular at Tabby’s Catfe! Another thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is that everyone is really friendly. From the students working the front desk at Fleming-Hovlid to the lab managers, everyone has been fun to talk to and very helpful in answering any questions we’ve asked. So far I’m really enjoying getting to know the area and my fellow researchers.

Within the first few days of arriving in Menomonie, my group had already received our first task. We were given a functional continuum robotic arm and instructed to improve upon it by adding a second segment, all the while brainstorming potential uses for the final product. The past several days have been spent working on this task. We began by re-wiring and re-programming the arm to make its motion and control a little bit more intuitive. In the process, we have also come up with the design for the second segment of the arm. Having printed or ordered the necessary parts, we are now in the final stages of assembling this segment and hope to have it completed within the next couple days.

With the robot nearing completion, we will soon need to decide upon an application for it. This is where our tour of the Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute has proven very useful. We were able to learn about a lot of existing assistive technology and begin to think about what sort of place our robot might hold in this field. As a robotic arm is certainly nothing new, our robot’s inherent safety and low cost will be its main selling points in how it furthers the state of the art. Our hopes are that our robot will be able to help people in rehabilitation or those individuals with disabilities accomplish day-to-day tasks without human assistance, thus giving them increased independence. Our options are currently restricted by the robot’s limited payload capacity and lack of an adaptive gripping mechanism. Therefore, a big decision we will have to make in the near future is whether we want to put the time and energy into eliminating these limitations or simply use our current prototype as a proof of concept, hopefully paving the way for further development in the future.

About Me – Megan Robinson

Hello! My name is Megan. I am 20 years old and I am originally from Akron, Ohio. I just completed my sophomore year at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where I am working towards a BS in Computer Science with a minor in Spanish. At Case I participate in the robotics club (CWRUbotix) and I am captain of the women’s club soccer team. In my spare time I enjoy hanging out with friends, playing board games, petting my cat, or attempting whatever projects I happen to find on Pinterest.

I came across the REU program as I was looking for something to do over the summer. Having no formal research experience, this program seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet. This particular program was especially appealing to me because I have always found robotics fascinating and am always looking for ways to get more experience in this field. My goals for this summer are to expand my knowledge of robotics and get valuable research experience that will help me narrow down my plans for the future.

As of right now my plans for after graduation are still up in the air. My hope is that my experience with the REU program this summer will help me decide whether I want to continue my studies in grad school or move on to working in industry. Wherever I end up going, I’m sure this program will turn out to be a very important step along the way!