Modlab The Modular Robotics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania

Modlab

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Welcome to the Modular Robotics Lab (ModLab), a subgroup of the GRASP Lab and the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics Department at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Prof. Mark Yim.

A modular robot is a versatile system consisting of many simple modules that can change their configuration to suit a given task. These systems are inherently robust due to their redundancy, adaptability, and ability to self-repair. While originally focused on continuing research in the field of modular robotics, recent work at the lab has expanded to include micro/nano air vehicles, bio-inspired gaits, personal robots, and more. The ModLab is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and computer systems engineering.

Featured Projects

Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (T.E.M.P.)

We have built a system of shipping container sized robotic boats that can hook onto each other.  We demonstrate the conceptual design of a system that is capable of constructing bridges and various shaped islands that can be made compliant to waves.

SMORES

The design of this system called SMORES (Self-assembling MOdular Robot for Extreme Shapeshifting) is capable of rearranging its modules in all three classes of reconfiguration; lattice style, chain style and mobile reconfiguration. Modules are independently mobile and are capable of self-assembly from a collection of disconnected modules.

CKbot

The CKbot (Connector Kinetic roBot) is a chain style modular robot. It is designed to be fast and inexpensive while small enough to fit inside a 3 inch tube. It is manually reconfigurable into any shape while also allowing attachments such as wheels, grippers, IR proximity sensors and camera modules.

Recent Projects

American Helicopter Society Student MAV Challenge 2015

We have developed a low-cost, lightweight coaxial-rotor MAV capable of full attitude control using just two actuators. The vehicle provides real-time telemetry and high-quality video to a ground station which can be used to remotely pilot the vehicle. The design integrates the underactuated rotor system developed in the lab with parts of cheap helicopter toys […]

Passive Stability of MAVs Without Angular Momentum

We modeled and built Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) that naturally hover without any sensing or control. These types of vehicles, called passively stabilized vehicles, can be made less complicated, more robust, and at lower cost with the addition of simple, yet carefully designed, stabilizer sails.

Modular Robot Design Embedding

We have developed an algorithm that automatically detects embeddability of modular robot configurations. Simply put, a given design embeds another design if it can replicate its structure, and therefore simulate its functionality. We introduce a novel graph representation for modular robots, and formalize the notion of embedding through topological and kinematic conditions. Our algorithm involves […]

Underactuated Rotor for Simple Micro Air Vehicles

We extract thrust, roll, and pitch authority from a single propeller and single motor through an underactuated mechanism embedded in the rotor itself. This allows new types of conventionally-capable micro air vehicles now requiring only two motors. This contrasts with the servos and linkages of conventional helicopters or the four drive motors in quadrotors.

Low-cost Laser Range Finder

The goal for this project is to make a low-cost but high-speed , very small and reliable laser range finder. The idea is to talk to a small camera, and obtain the laser line position and send out the data line by line in real-time.

Anticogging

Smooth motion is critical to robotic applications like haptics or those requiring high precision force control. These systems are often direct-drive, so any torque ripple in the motor output must be minimal. Unfortunately, low inherent torque ripple motors are expensive. We came up with a method to map and suppress torque ripple from cogging torque so low cost motors can perform as well as expensive ones, while using only a position sensor, which is already required for servo control. We call this compensation "Anticogging".

Passive Stability of a Single Actuator MAV

In an effort to build one of the world's smallest flying vehicles, we built a flying vehicle with only two moving parts connected by one motor. Because the vehicle cannot control its attitude with its one actuator, passive stability is a required trait, so we derived design requirements for making passively stable vehicles.

Persona

Our mobile telepresence robot is fitted with a robotic manipulator that will allow a person to virtually manipulate the avatar environment. We have shown our robot called "Persona" to be capable of moving up and down ramps, use elevators, manipulate objects such as chess pieces, and to lift and transport loads up to 4.5 kg.

DARPA DRC Trials

The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) is a competition sponsored by DARPA to encourage rapid, innovative development in the field of humanoid robotics. Modlab participated with Penn as a part of Team THOR and Dr. Lee's lab, in an alliance with Virginia Tech, Robotis Inc, and Harris Corp. The Trials were held from Dec 20-21, 2013, with sixteen teams each providing a robot to complete eight tasks designed to simulate disaster recovery scenarios.

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