Continuum Robot Update 1

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.

About Me – Max Kirkpatrick

Hello all! My name is Max Kirkpatrick and I am a mechanical engineering major from the University of South Carolina. I am 21 years old and heading into my senior year at USC (not to be confused with the one in southern California). I’ve been involved in robotics since elementary school, starting with Lego robots. I participated in FIRST robotics programs through high school and grew to love building and programming robotic systems. At USC I have conducted research in robotics and applications in 3D printing at the McNair Aerospace Center. My focus has been on the development of a 6 DOF system for 3D printing of carbon fiber composites. Additionally I have conducted research in 3D printing of piezoelectric polymers, and this research was presented at the IEEE Sensors conference in Orlando, FL.

I applied for this REU program as a means to broaden my horizons in the research world. I have worked for the same lab for the last 2 years and was curious to see how other labs approach research problems. This program offers me a chance to explore a slightly different research area and perhaps see where my interests in the field of robotics lay. Additionally I was hoping that this experience would help me decide how interested I am in graduate school, and whether a PhD or a masters is more suited to me.

I’m looking forward to a productive summer working alongside fellow researchers here at UW Stout.