Thea Tran Summer Projects

June 20

*Get oriented into the lab, starting summer blog page, etc. *Will be working on things related to HapticsForGaitRetraining and with WisitJirattigalachote *Visited the PRL and LFL *Got an introduction to the different projects: pretty interested in getting a person to climb a wall with the gecko adhesion project too

June 21

*Attended my first haptics meeting today-don't ask me how much if it I understood! *Wisit gave me an overview of the magic pebble. Got a better understanding of it and looked underneath the insole *Wisit wants to make the device smaller (so that it will fit into an insole) and possible self-powered/more power efficient *Listened in on a brainstorm to make the pebble more power efficient-want to take advantage of the 180 degree movement of the cam *Schedule a meeting with Rebecca to talk about experiments in the HPL *The plan is to learn arduino next week; in the mean time, I spent some time learning SolidWorks? (now my eyes hurt)

June 22

*Went with Noe and Matt to the LFL where we got to mix/pour urethane for Kim's sticky adhesion design; we also got to look at the CNC machine and go to the thermoshop *I also did some research on human climbing for Elliot *A lot of it has to do with the positioning of the center of gravity; most of the power comes from the legs *Alexi told me a bit about the sensors he is inserting into his airplane *Skyped with Pete in China: he thought that the best idea would be for me to start with prototyping a new magic pebble; Mark also mentioned that Santhi might need help with her fiber optic needle project next week

June 23

*Lab retreat today at Pomponio beach *My goals for the summer: *Acquire new robotics skills, work on the different machines in the LFL, build something really cool and do a lot of learning (start by learning arduino next week and getting some close toed shoes) *Talked with Sanjay about how engineers take research done by biologists and implement them into robots (teradactyl flying, the extra legs on the crab and prosthetics, and of course the geckobot and airplane)

June 24

*Started the day by downloading Mendeley *Friday lab meeting with blueberry goat cheese where we talked about ways to make the airplane pivot on the wall *Morgan, Michela and I started cleaning room 123 where we are going to test the new designs of the plane *Michela and I were going to start working in solidworks (designing the "L-shaped" piece of the claw) but poor Alexi found a problem with the current edition of solidworks
  • Kelly gave us a really good introduction to solidworks
  • Went to find Sanjaay to see if he needed any help and ran into Paul instead; despite the fact that he was going deaf from blasting music, he and Noe turned out to have extremely valuable advice
    • Paul helped me email Sanjaay to track him down and Santi-hopefully will figure out what I'm doing next week; they also suggested I do Solidworks/arduino tutorials in my spare time and sent me some of the past published papers to read for fun

--++June 27

  • I met Santhi today and she gave me an overview of the needle sensing project she is working on; we are going to the hobby shop tomorrow for some joints
  • Did some research on parallel robots: delta mechanism and stewart platform
  • Took a look at Bruce's prototype and talked about what we would be doing next
  • I read some articles on parallel robots ("Mechanism for Haptic Torque Feedback") and simple machines
  • Did two Autodesk tutorials

--++June 28

  • 10:00 haptics meeting today: went over the needle project and I learned a lot of new words (thank you Wikipedia)
  • Read articles that Santhi sent me yesterday (building a delta robot and her paper, "Real Time Estimation...") which gave me a much better understanding of the project
  • Did another Autodesk tutorial
  • Went to the hobby shop and got some U-joints and ball joints. There were so many choices we had a hard time choosing.


  • So my official keeping track of my blog starts here (please ignore brevity in my other posts).
  • I spent yesterday cleaning up the Lego bin looking for those ball joints. I felt like a little boy: every time I found a cool joint, my heart leaped a bit. It's hard to buy them because Lego discontinued some of their parts, but we managed to order some from as well.
  • With some help from Mark, I managed to assemble the joints (from Tuesday) using what looks like an upside down hair dryer and some pliers. My first encounter with some bada** engineering tools.
  • I then spent the afternoon struggling with Autodesk to build the base of Bruce's Stewart platform design. My lesson for the day: fully define. Santhi and I plan to lasercut the parts tomorrow, so get ready to see my new (close toed) shoes tomorrow.
  • Despite getting a little caught up with Autodesk, I left Santhi for a bit to go to a meeting at the HPL with Wisit, Mark, and Rebecca (and Pete over Skype). We talked a bit more about the project and the tests that we need to do on the Magic Pebble, insoles, Pete's experiments, etc. I was a bit lost, but Mark said I would jump in when things get a little bit easier to understand.
  • Today I spent the morning struggling yet again with AUTODESK. The tutorials did help, but I learned a lot more doing it myself. Draft 4 (5, 6?) was finally done when autodesk crashed on me-from what I understand, the problem got fixed and we changed it to the "crash less" setting. Kelly was super helpful, though, and managed to answer all my questions. We changed his design so it would not have three arcs on the base (they didn't seem to help the beams and seemed to get in the way of mobility). See attachment images for references and pictures of Bruce's prototype will be up shortly.
  • I then finished assembling the joints and played around with Legos.
  • At about 4:45, Santhi and I went to the LFL to use the lasercam (us and about 5 other middle schoolers). I read the directions for using the laser cutter, and we began by cutting a base out of acrylic. Some notes about using the lasercutter: set to "hairline," keep the blue cover on, and make sure to change the material in the settings. Shanti left me for a sec to punch out the parts, which seemed rather difficult. Yet, as I had already proved my inability at AUTODESK, I was determined to overcome this seemingly Herculean task. Luckily, John came along and diagnosed the problem: the laser cutter was at fault, not me. From all the people who used it before us (those middle schoolers!), the grid below the cutter was sinking and the laser wasn't strong enough to cut through the pieces. Thus, we slowed down the laser (from 15% to 11%) and tried again. By 6:00, we managed to have 2 bases and 6 pieces for the grip. Tomorrow, I'll start with looking at Stewart Mechanisms. Hopefully, time will be more generous.

--++July 5

  • Friday I started the day with a SolidWorks? tutorial (I figure learn both Autodesk and SolidWorks? while I can)
  • I ran into Seok Chang who gave me a brief overview of the Stewart Platform and printed out some papers for me: A Platform with Six Degrees of Freedom (Stewart) Stiffness Analysis And Kinematicmodeling of Stewart Platform for Machining Applications (Kumar, S; Nagarajan, Srinivasa). Thus, I spent the morning looking up terms and trying to understand the mathematics behind inverse and forward kinematics. *After lunch, I went to the robotics meeting and listened to Paul talk about fibrillar adhesives. The application of biomimicry is very interesting and is something I'd like to know more abut in general (how else are we apply biology to robotics/engineering?). *Lucky me, I then spent another afternoon working with Autodesk. I created an extension of the airplane launcher for Morgan Pope. Creating the part was smooth sailing, but trying to assemble them was yet another learning experience. *I ended the day helping Santhi (if you call it that) cut the epoxy fibers for the Stewart platform that we created. By try three, I managed to cut the rods in a straight line, finally overcoming the fingernail-on-chalkboard sound. We glued together the broken pieces of the base and were planning on coming in Monday to work some more. But alas, Fourth of July sales persuaded us otherwise. *

-- TheaTran - 20 Jun 2011

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