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Robots of the Future: Controlling tomorrow's vehicles

July 27, 2016

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Richard Hill is also the director of the Advanced Electric Vehicle Program at UDM. For years, he has been working on an omnidirectional vehicle, with students providing major assistance.

His first high-mobility robotic vehicle, built through a grant from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research and Engineering Center, uses a unique geometry to go where it is needed, operated remotely by a videogame-style controller. The controller communicates wirelessly with a laptop that then operates the control algorithms that move the vehicle. He credits Assistant Dean of Research and Outreach for the College of Engineering & Science Nasiff Rayess with major contributions to getting the project off the ground.

The work, now funded by the University, is done mostly by graduate students and it’s slow going, Hill admits.

“Students work on various aspects and we see what works and how we can refine it,” he said. “They often find the work frustrating, because they don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t have it. We find things out together.”

But, he says, that’s what’s so exciting about it.

“They get a lot out of working on this project,” he said. “It’s really hands on and they are directly responsible for everything. They learn about dealing with the ambiguity and the open-endedness of research. They’ll spend a lot of time and hit a dead end, but these students also know the value of this type of work and of having a published research paper on their resume.”

Hill is also working on a project that is developing a way to automatically generate software to control multiple robots cooperatively and, with Novi, Mich.-based MathWorks, which specializes on mathematical computing software, on developing tools for self-learning in the engineering curriculum.

Learn more about the Advanced Electrical Vehicle Program.

By Ron Bernas
Spiritus, Spring 2016

Robots of the Future

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