Recently the University of Hawaii at Hilo hosted a robotics competition that put mining robots from seven universities on the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano. The Robotic International Space Mining Competition was the first of its kind, and was put on by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration System (PISCES).
The Johns Hopkins University robotics club assumed administrators would ask them immediately to dismantle the electronics that turned a staircase in their engineering building into a playable keyboard. But they didn’t — at least not right away. And the day after it was set up, they saw a professor on his hands and knees playing it, according to WBALTV. Each step has a sensor attached to a mini controller that tells it to play a certain note in the C major scale, according to the article. The club can also change the sounds of the instruments it plays.
The giant keyboard has drawn crowds since being installed, and the club members hope it will stir some interest from students looking to join the club or think about robotics as a study path. They’ve been inspired by this pop-up project and how much attention it’s gotten, and they plan to install different interactive projects in the future.
U.S. unmanned aircraft, or drones, have been taking to the skies since the Air Force first developed them in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen six U.S. sites for testing and researching unmanned aircraft, and Congress hopes that by 2015, they will be integrated into the U.S. airspace. According to the New York Times, privately-owned drones the size of tiny helicopters could be used to inspect broken power lines, and styrofoam planes could fly over fields to look for agriculture pests and help determine better farming practices.
But the unmanned aircraft industry is relatively young compared to that of manned airplanes and helicopters, says L. D. Chen, director of engineering and computing sciences at Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi. TAMU-CC is one of the FAA’s six chosen sites, and will work with the administration to research the best ways to control a drone’s guidance, control, and recovery systems.
A recent NPR report on obesity noted a Marquette University electrical engineering professor’s project on toy-like robots that are built and programmed to help get young Americans active and lose weight. According to the report, the robot can talk to children to assess their health needs, understand their commands, demonstrate exercises, and actually exercise with them.
While personal trainers can be expensive, Professor Andrew Williams’s aim is a low-cost robot that can substitute as a health coach in classrooms and even homes. In the above video, WISN TV in Milwaukee shows the robot leading students through push-up and dance exercises.
For the past eight years, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has held an annual robotics design competition to encourage students to develop ideas for robots that could solve real-life agricultural problems. The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate teams, and allows multiple teams to enter from one university. Each year the competition is held at ASABE’s annual international conference. This year, the competition will take place July 13-16 in Montreal, Canada.
Coincidentally, a rather Canadian challenge was chosen for this year: designing a robotic system that can install a sap pipeline between maple trees in a forest. Such a method would be more cost-effective and less wasteful than current methods that require collecting the sap by hand. Registration for this year’s contest is open until June 15, 2014.