AIMing for Automated Vehicles

Paul F. Grayson, AIMing for Automated Vehicles blog, Control Engineering

The U.S. armed forces have had smart weapons for a long time now. It is just recently that they realized they need smart supply trucks. Hi, I am Paul F. Grayson, Team Leader of American Industrial Magic (AIM), one of last remaining teams of the 390 teams that worked on vehicles for the DARPA Grand Challenge series of unmanned vehicle races. AIM is working to save soldiers lives by searching for ways to make driverless Army supply trucks affordable. AIM is funded by donations from individuals like you who want to speed up the fielding of this life-saving technology. With this blog, you can look over my shoulder while I and my team work on  this important technology. You will get a chance to look into the world of unmanned robotic vehicles, see some of the things that I see, and puzzle over the challenges of making vehicles driverless. Welcome to my world!



Robot Skin; FIRST Robotics - Michigan Regional Contest; One Million - the posters

March 02, 2010

Robot Skin by Peratech

ROBOT SKIN (sensor net)

Several people over the years have told me that their work was being held back by the lack of a good robot skin.  What they meant was an economical sensor net that could cover their robot and sense not only the finger tips but also the arm bumping into things, the real world being messy like it is.   What Paratech has come up with looks like a much better solution than I have been able to come up with.    As a quick fix a few years ago I suggested covering the robot we were working on with surplus keyboards we had available.  Not only did the keyboards contain the chip that could sort out info from 114 points of contact but they also were cheap, being produced in the large numbers that they are.   Well, Paratech’s solution not only gives you the point of contact, but also the amount of pressure, temperature, texture, etc. so they are way beyond my keyboard idea.

Quantum Tunnelling Composites by Paratech are electro-active polymeric materials made from metallic or non-metallic filler particles combined in an elastomeric binder. These enable the action of ‘touch’ to be translated into an electrical reaction, enabling a vast array of devices to incorporate very thin and highly robust ’sensing’ of touch and pressure. QTC’s unique properties enable it to be made into force sensitive switches of any shape or size. QTC switches and switch matrices can be screen printed allowing for development and integration of switches that are as thin as 75 microns. 

Once again it is FIRST Robotics Week here in Traverse City, MI.  What is different this year is that I have been asked to be a judge for the event and will be in the thick of it for most of the week.  The event itself is Friday and Saturday.   I attended one day of the event last year and reported about it here in CE Online,  it was intense.  I am wondering what being immersed in it, rather than just observing it as a reporter, is going to be like.  I will let you know.

Students, grades 9 -12, get to:
   Learn from professional engineers
   Build and compete with a robot of their own design
   Learn and use sophisticated software and hardware
   Compete and cooperate in alliances and tournaments
   Earn a place in the World Championship
   Qualify for over $12 million in college scholarships

See also:

This is a great set of 4-H posters.  I have the third one here in my barn workshop.  It is a fresh take on a painting called “Sistine Robot” which is a robot spoof of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting ”Creation Of Adam”.

This is your chance to let me and the other readers know what is on your mind.  You can use the comments section at the end of the column to let us know what you think.   I will be watching for your comments and suggestions.

Keep track of TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club developments by joining their Yahoo NewsGroup at: 

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Paul F. Grayson - Chief Engineer
American Industrial Magic, LLC
“small engine and machinery repair”
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club
“Science, Engineering, and Technology”
390 4-Mile Rd. S.
Traverse City, MI 49686-8411
(231) 883-4463 Cell
TC Tinkers 4-H Robot Club:
CE Magazine:

Posted by Paul F. Grayson on March 2, 2010