Project Information

my project

This is about FIRST robotics teams using thier off-season to build robots to help people.

project stage

what's happening

IMSA's FIRST Robotics Team 2022, Titan Robotics, inspired by IMSA's Principal/Vice President for Academic Programs, Dr. Eric McLaren, will lead a competition to design and build during the off season robotics devices that assist people with special needs.  Our project for this year, fall 2012, is a wheelchair lift to raise occupants as much as 10 inches so that they can reach things on stoves, counter tops and the like.  For rules and details, click here.

History: The project for 2011 was about helping ALS victims and anyone else with very limited use of their upper body (i.e. arms and hands.) The challenge was to design and build a robotic mechanism that people can use to feed themselves.  FIRST teams are invited and encouraged to participate and collaborate in this unique competition.  View a video about this project by clicking here.

what's next

Fall 2012 challenge is announced. To request an account and collaborate on this project with others, use this submission form.  Contact Jim Gerry ( if you have any questions or need more information.Note: Date pushed to December 14th for demos of the wheelchair project.


Progress on IMSA's project

Students at IMSA have now settled on a design and have created the CAD for it. This design uses pneumatics for the lift mechanism. We are now moving into the parts ordering and prototype build stage

Wheelchair lift concept mock-up in legos

Here is one of the concepts being considered and a document with more details is available here, but you have to be a CoolHub member to get this, contact Jim Gerry if you want a free membership.  Please don't use this to limit your thinking to this as it is intended only to get your thinking started. 

Fall 2012 Challenge - wheelchair lift has just been annouced

Our challenge for this fall season is to design a wheelchair lift device for manual wheelchairs (not electric ones) that will lift the occupant up to a maximum of 10 inches. For details and rules, click here.

Arm Rev 3.0

The final revision of the arm was Rev 3.0. This added one more degree of freedom, the ability for the arm to move and reach back and forward using a drawer slider typs of mechanism. Photos and videos will be posted here.  Programming on this revision is still in progress.  The entire project will be released as open source once programming is completed this fall.

I met Tom M. at the Montgomery Fest this past Saturday as we were participating in the robotics demonstration with our robot.  We had Rev 2 and 3 of the arm there as well.  Anyway, he is the second or third person to mention this new $35 computer to me.  May this be our controller for the new project?  Check it out:

Video of rev 2.0

Video of working prototype arm

Video clip of the project results to date.  Enjoy (thanks Derrick Miller).

Prototype arm moving - amazing

We have worked two nights this week already and continue to accomplish a great deal.  Tonight, after most people had left, since it was past 9:00 PM, we saw the arm finally move.  We solved the power problem with a borrowed power supply that has variable controls, so we were able to "dial" in the correct voltage and amperage as needed.  Then programming took over and got the kinect control code to move servos instead of just lighting LED's that were used for testing.  Once everything was in place, Ethan and Austin were able to control the arm with their leg movements and it was amazing.  Finally we are seeing rather fluid motion with great control.  After working with it for a few minutes, Ethan was able to control the arm to grab Austin's outstreched hand and simulate a hand shake with it.  Wow! You have to see this to believe it, and it looks so real and is easy to control.  Not bad for the first "fluid" test.

I'm just sorry that I didn't have my camera with me - I would have taken a video and you all would be seeing it right now.  I'll do that tomorrow night for sure and post it for everyone.

The mechanical team continues to build the "final" arm and has made good progress here also.  It will be the usual sprint to the finish, but we will have something great to demonstrate Saturday.

Progress on the prototype and control

We worked two sessions this past week and accomplished a lot.  The prorotype arm, photo below, is now mechanically complete and control (programming) has been working with it.  They have run into a problem, there is not enough power supplied through the Arduino to work five servos.  Power alternatives are being formulated and tested.

Meanwhile, another sub-team of control has programmed the Kinect to respond to leg movements and has six separate controls that the arduio will accept and respond to.  So, we will have a leg control system that will work.  And, the mechanical team has a CAD of the physical layout and printed individual part drawings from the CAD.  These were distributed and many teams were creating the aluminum parts for the real arm which will have three degrees of freedom.  We now head into our final stretch with build sessions each night (excpet Monday) after Thanskgiving break in a final push to have a working arm by December 3rd. 

Control of the device

We have been looking into several options to control the device.  Microsoft Kinect is one that we have purchased and are playing with.  We think that we  may use a combination of motions and voice noises for inputs.  It appears that we may have to use the Microsoft software as the open source software does not seem to support voice input or any fine movements.  We are also looking into the Emotiv device, pictured here and have ordered one, but they take 3 weeks to get to us, which does not leave us time to work things out.So we may add this later on.

For more info in this device click here.

Video: Deus Ex:The Eyeborg Documentary

Here is a video that you may find inspirational (note: there is a 5 second long clip of a sugical procedure that start 10 seconds into the video):


New: Slight rule change

Check out the rules, we made a slight rule change to the first rule listed. Check it out here.

Exoskeleton TED Talk

Work on exoskeleton extensions is progressing. This came from StumbleUpon and I wanted to share it.



Here is a TED video about this exciting work.

Work on public domain arm continues

Was great to have 10 students from Aurora West join us for this work.  Because of limitations of our CNC machine, we ordered the cut plastic from the supplier suggested on the project page.  However, it has not yet arrived, so we attempted rough cutting parts with our machine.  The job did not complete before we ran our of time tonight, to be continued....  We continue to have over 40 students attend and actively engaged.  However, homework load had a good number of sophomores leave early.  So it goes.  We hope to assemble our first arm next Wednesday night.

Robotics Team Kicks off with Arduino Kits

MSA's team met Wednesday 9/28 with 53 students attending (20 girls!). After students lead a safety briefing and team introductions, the team split into seven working groups and had great fun building Arduino kits and learning how this system works. Only a few students have worked with them before, so much collaborative learning is evident. Another small group worked on the conversion of the vector graphic part file into something our CNC machine can cut while the seventh group worked on the team's web presence.  Next week will will begin to assemble the open source robotic arm while continuing on the Arduino learning kits. Hopefully the servos we ordered will arrive in time for the Wednesday session.

Arduino's arrived, as did the servo controllers

Well, the "brains" of our robotic arm arrived today, just in time for our team work tomorrow night. These kits contain not only the controller, but the breadboard, components, and enough jumper wires to complete a lunar landing module.  I think much fun and learning is ahead.  I also ordered and received the servo controller recommended by the oomlout folks.  Still waiting on servos that have been ordered.

Work begins at IMSA

The team met and discussed design of the arm.  We downloaded the parts vector graphic file from the open source project (listed in previous blog entry).  We will need to find a way to convert this file into the correct  format for our CNC machine, then we will cut the parts. We plan to order the other parts in order to begin building this as a prototype to learn from.

Starting point for the arm

One of IMSA's team members, Derrick, found this after researching on the internet.  It is open source, based on the Adrino controller.  We are using this as a starting point.  Check it out.  IMSA can cut parts for this for other teams if they wish. Check it out here.

photo of robotics arm

I also found a great article that goes into the mathematics and other considerations when building a robotic arm, it is here.

Project information

This project is for FIRST robotics teams (or others) to have a project to work on in the fall off-season time.  We invite others to join us as we develop robots that can help people who have lost their ability to use their  arms, legs, or other parts of thier bodies.

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