Robotics Merit Badge – From space probes to underwater exploration, from medicine to manufacturing, from law enforcement to search and rescue, robots are highly useful in people’s lives today and will be an even bigger part of our lives in the future.
Robotics the technology of designing, building, and operating computer-controlled robots is a large and growing field.
The uses for robots seem almost endless. In agriculture, robots cultivate and harvest fields. In the mining industry, robots do the dirty work on digging and hauling mineral deposits.
In microelectronics manufacturing, robots perform precision assembly work where parts must place exactly in making components. In medicine, robots perform delicate surgery around nerves, on the eyes, and on other vital organs.
Robotics Merit Badge Requirement
- Safety. Do each of the following:
- Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while working with robots and what you should do to anticipate, mitigate, and prevent, and respond to these hazards. Describe the appropriate safety gear and clothing that should be used when working with robotics.
- Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries that could occur while participating in robotics activities and competitions, including cuts, eye injuries, and burns (chemical or heat).
- Robotics industry. Discuss the following with your counselor:
- The kinds of things robots can do and how robots are best used today.
- The similarities and differences between remote-control vehicles, telerobots, and autonomous robots.
- Three different methods robots can use to move other than wheels or tracks. Describe when it would be appropriate to use each method.
- General knowledge. Discuss with your counselor three of the five major fields of robotics (human-robot interface, mobility, manipulation, programming, sensors) and their importance to robotics development. Discuss either the three fields as they relate to a single robot system OR talk about each field in general. Find pictures or at least one video to aid your discussion.
- Design, build, program, test. Do each of the following:
- With your counselor’s approval, choose a task for the robot or robotic subsystem that you plan to build. Include sensor feedback and programming in the task. Document this information in your robot engineering notebook.
- Design your robot. The robot design should use sensors and programming and have at least 2 degrees of freedom. Document the design in your robot engineering notebook using drawings and a written description.
- Build a robot or robotic subsystem of your original design to accomplish the task you chose for requirement 4a.
- Discuss with your counselor the programming options available for your robot. Then do either option 1 OR option 2.
- Option 1. Program your robot to perform the task you chose for your robot in 4a. Include a sample of your program’s source code in your robot engineering notebook.
- Option 2. Prepare a flowchart of the desired steps to program your robot for accomplishing the task in 4a. Include procedures that show activities based on sensor inputs. Place this in your robot engineering notebook.
- Test your robot and record the results in your robot engineering notebook. Include suggestions on how you could improve your robot, as well as pictures or sketches of your finished robot.
- Demonstrate. Do the following:
- Demonstrate for your counselor the robot you built in requirement 4.
- Share your robot engineering notebook with your counselor. Talk about how well your robot accomplished the task, the improvements you would make in your next design, and what you learned about the design process.
- Competitions. Do ONE of the following.
- Attend a robotics competition and report to your counselor what you saw and learned about the competition and how teams are organized and managed.
- Learn about three youth robotics competitions. Tell your counselor about these, including the type of competition, time commitment, age of the participants, and how many teams are involved.
- Careers. Name three career opportunities in robotics. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
The Four D’s of Robotics
Robotics tasks generally fall into four categories that humans do not want to do or don’t do well. These are known as the four D’s of robotics:
|Dangerous. Robots are used for tasks too dangerous for humans. Bomb squads often use robots to defuse or detonate explosive threats. Robots go places like deep space, miles below the ocean surface, and into collapsed buildings, volcanoes, and combat situations that would be extremely dangerous for people. Soldiers, firefighters, police, and rescue workers use robots to do things that would otherwise put people in danger.|
|Dirty. Robots are used in dirty places and tasks, such as inspecting sewers, wastewater pipelines, and storage tanks. Robots scrub ships of barnacles. They are also useful in disposing of or containing toxic materials like those at nuclear power plants.|
|Dull. Robots are good at highly repetitive or dull tasks that humans may find dreary and boring. Robots are used in automotive plants, for example, to make repetitive welds, to paint cars, and to bolt parts together|
|Difficult. Robots are used to perform tasks that are difficult for people to do. Some of these tasks are delicate, like surgery; others require heavy lifting and strength beyond what people can do safely, like lifting huge amounts of material in mines.|
Five Centuries of Robots
The first robots appeared hundreds of years ago and were not called “robots.” They were entertaining mechanical toys that used clockwork or mechanical programming.
They could do complex tasks using gears and latches like a player piano can play music without a musician. The Japanese Karakuri ningyo toys of the 1700s or Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century design for a mechanical knight are examples of early robots.
The term “robot” was first used in 1921 in the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech playwright Karel Capek. Robota is a Czech word that means “forced labor.”
The story is a familiar one: An inventor builds robots that turn on their human masters. The science fiction writer Isaac Asimov is also credited with inventing the term “robotics” and developing the concept of robots as intelligent machines in his book I, Robot.
1. Artificial Intelligence
In the late 1950s the field of artificial intelligence (AI) was born. An important field for robotics, AI is the study of ways to program a computer or machine to re-create the reasoning, deduction, and problem-solving abilities of humans and animals.
So far, this field has had only limited success in matching the intelligence of animals, not the higher-thinking abilities of humans.
2. Human and Robot Teams
A major focus of AI is understanding the differences between machine computing and human thinking.
Machines can recall data and compute math equations far quicker and more accurately than humans. They can also be made more rugged than humans, so they can go places we cannot.
People, however, are creative and can recognize patterns more rapidly than computers or robots can. People generally enjoy being creative and looking for patterns. We do not need or want robots to do that for us.
In addition, humans can adapt to changing situations much better than robots. Most robots cannot even adjust their grip to pick up a hammer or a rake. People learn early how to adapt to changes in our environment, or how to adapt to grip different tools.
3. Industrial Robots
The first industrial robot, Unimate, was installed in a General Motors manufacturing plant in 1961.
The Puma series of robots soon followed the Unimate onto the manufacturing floor. These robots kicked off the industrial robotics revolution seen in manufacturing today.
They do jobs that are too dangerous or too dull and repetitive for people. They are also faster and more accurate than humans.
Because of the gains in speed, accuracy, and efficiency, robots can reduce the overall cost and increase the quality of manufactured products.
4. Robots as Explorers
Robots have become our eyes and ears in new worlds. Robots can be made more rugged the humans. They also do not mind being sent to distant places, possibly to be destroyed and never to return.
Robots have explored the extreme depths of our oceans and the farthest reaches of our solar system. Jason Jr. is an underwater robot that helped to discover and explore the sunken Titanic in 1986.
NASA scientists and engineers have used space robots to explore the sun, comets, asteroids, and planets of our solar system. In 2004 the rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars.
They were designed to last 90 days in the harsh Martian environment; seven years later, they were still going!
5. Personal Robots
For years people have dreamed of owning a robot to do their dull and dirty jobs. The Roomba, a robotic vacuum cleaner introduced in 2002, has become the most successful of a group of robots known as personal robots.
The Roomba is inexpensive enough that many people can afford one to clean their floors. There are also robot lawn mowers, robot pool cleaners, sentry robots to watch your home when you are away, and gutter cleaning robots.
Major Fields of Robotics
Sophisticated robot design typically requires the talents and expertise of teams of engineers. There are five fields of expertise in robotics
|Operator Interface. A robot must be able to communicate with its human controller. The interface is the mechanism of communication between the person and the robot. For example, a joystick controller for a video game is an interface used to communicate with the game.|
|Mobility or Locomotion. Locomotion is how the robot gets from place to place-how it moves in its environment. Mobility can be achieved with wheels, legs, fins, propellers, and much more.|
|Manipulators and Effectors. The parts of the robot that interact with objects may touch things. pick them up, place them in containers, spray them with paint, and more. Examples include claws, pushers, and mechanical arms and fingers.|
|Programming. Programming is how you talk to a machine. Some forms of advanced programming allow a robot to learn and adapt to changes in its environment.|
|Sensing and Perception. A robot needs information from sensors to know where it is, to go where it needs to go and to avoid obstacles.|
1. Operator Interface
|Autonomous Interfaces. An autonomous robot is controlled by its internal computer. An autonomous robot system is much like the human autonomic system (a part of the nervous system that controls involuntary actions like heartbeat, balance, and breathing). It operates and regulates itself without our awareness or interference. A common computer and robot interface is a keyboard. Autonomous robots are generally programmed by the operator using a keyboard. The program directs the robot through the controller, a small computer on the robot.|
|Teleoperator Interface. A teleoperated robot (telerobot) is controlled by a human using a control device at a remote location, also known as remote manipulation. Teleoperation and remote control are similar. Remote-control cars and airplanes are controlled completely in real-time by a person. Teleoperated robots are much more complex, however. They receive some commands from the operator, but they also have sensors that sense the environment and provide feedback to the operator. Such robots are programmed to react to the environment if necessary.|
2. Mobility or Locomotion
To do their jobs, robots need to move. They can move in many different ways. Some need to move only mechanical arms or grippers. Others need to be fully mobile, able to travel from place to place.
The parts of the robot that create motion are called actuators. There are many types of actuators used in robots including motors, servos, and pneumatic cylinders.
|Electric Motors. Most robots use electric motors. These popular actuators are typically used to rotate a wheel, gear, or propeller. Direct current (battery-operated) motors are often used in portable or mobile robots; alternating current motors are used in industrial, fixed-position robots.|
|Servos. Servos are similar to motors in that they have a rotary action and work on electricity. But instead of rotating continuously, they rotate to a specific position and stop. Servos are used to rotate gears, joints, and fins. They range from small hobby servos for remote-control airplanes to large industrial servos that are used to move objects weighing many tons.|
|Linear Actuators. Linear actuators are used to push or pull structural elements instead of rotating them. These types of actuators can exert a tremendous amount of force very quickly in one linear (straight) direction. These use pressurized air (pneumatics) or fluid (hydraulics) to cause their motion.|
|Rotary Actuators. A rotary actuator generates a rotational force that can be used to move robot joints. Rotary actuators work in much the same way as linear actuators, except the push is circular rather than straight.|
For locomotion robot you can read on robotics merit badge pamphlet.
3. Manipulators and Effectors
Besides moving from place to place, robots need to manipulate objects-pick up, modify, or otherwise move or have an effect on objects. There are many types of manipulators and effectors.
|Mechanical Grippers. The gripper is a common type of effector. It can be as simple as two fingers that open and close like a claw, or as complicated as a mechanical hand.|
|Vacuum Grippers. Vacuum grippers use suction to manipulate objects. They are used in a wide variety of applications: to place tiny integrated circuits on electronics boards and to place the windshields on automobiles in a car factory, for example. The main requirement for vacuum grippers is that they have a smooth surface to which they can attach themselves.|
|Magnetic Grippers. Magnetic grippers use electromagnets to hold and manipulate objects. These are versatile and can control heavy loads, but the objects must be made of a kind of material (iron, usually) that a magnet can pick up.|
|Ingressive Effector. An ingressive effector uses pins, needles, or hackles that penetrate the surface of the object. These are common for handling textiles and glass fibers.|
A robot generally has an onboard computer that controls it. This requires writing a program in the language the robot speaks. You are probably familiar with many computer programs: word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software, for example.
Programming is the process of creating these programs: writing software in the computer’s language.
For robots, programmers can use various computer languages. An interesting one often used in artificial intelligence applications is LISP; it can learn from its surroundings.
5. Sensing and Perception (Sensors)
A robot must constantly ask, “Where am I? Where do I need to go? What is in my way?” To answer these questions, the robot uses sensors, which do many of the same things that human senses do.
Robots use cameras for eyes and microphones for ears. They use bump sensors to touch. They have temperature sensors to “feel” heat or cold. Other special sensors go beyond human senses.
- The Global Positioning System (GPS) can provide a robot or its operator with the robot’s coordinates on a map.
- Radar transmitters can detect objects in the robot’s way. Radar bounces radio waves off objects to determine their distance and speed from the radar device.
- Light detecting and ranging (LIDAR) sensors can be more precise than radar at identifying objects. LIDAR uses light instead of radio waves. LIDAR can identify several objects and their distances at once.
- Infrared sensors can detect heat and are used to see at night or in the dark.
Careers in Robotics
From deep seas to deep space to your closet at home, robots are everywhere. Only a few of the possible career paths are discussed here.
Starting a career in robotics begins right now. Take as many classes as possible in math, physics, computers, and design. Get as much practical, hands-on experience as possible by participating in clubs or organizations pertaining to robotics or engineering
You will need more than a high school degree to work with robots. If you want to be a robotics technician, many junior or community colleges offer robotics and automation associate degrees.
Robotics technicians operate and maintain the robots; if you want to design robots you will need to get an engineering degree.
Most people who seek a career in robotics major in mechanical, electrical, structural, biomedical, or industrial engineering or computer science.
These degrees will prepare you to be able to design several components of a robot system. To design a complete robot you need to know more than one of these fields.
Most robotics engineering programs today are graduate-level programs that integrate several engineering disciplines. Nevertheless, there are man opportunities around robots these days.
Exploration is a prime field for robotics, to reduce the risk to humans working or living in extreme environments such as the deep ocean or space. Such hazardous environments present ideal conditions to use robots.
|Space. NASA needs robotics engineers to design space robots. Space is a hostile environment for humans, but not for robots. In space, one side of a robot, astronaut, or spacecraft may experience temperatures of 200 degrees F on its sunny side and minus 200 degrees on its shady side. Space is also a vacuum. If an unprotected human was exposed to the harsh environment of space, it would be fatal. Robots can be designed to handle this harsh environment.|
|Deep-Sea. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency uses autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUV robots, to explore the oceans and atmosphere. Earth’s ocean floors are largely unexplored by humans because the deep ocean environment is dangerous to humans. Robots are being used to explore the ocean floor so that we can determine what resources are available there and how we can better protect the ocean floor environment. Much private industries-especially petroleum companies-use AUVs to support deep-sea petroleum exploration and drilling. The Deep Water Horizon oil spill was eventually capped by AUVs.|
2. The Military or Law Enforcement
Anywhere safety is a major concern, robots can be found. Teleoperated robots provide air, land, and sea surveillance that helps locate dangers.
Bomb squad and fire-control robots allow public safety officers to stà d off from dangerous situations like fires, collapsed buildings, or hostage situations.
As firemen and police officers become more familiar with robots, the demand for them will increase.
Robots have utterly revolutionized how soldiers fight wars. There are a growing number of flying, swimming, and rover robots used in the military.
The need for robot operators and robot designers in the military is likely to grow quickly in the near future.
Medical robots are rapidly changing the field of medicine. More and more robots are being designed to support doctors in all aspects of their work.
Robots are being used to analyze test data and identify DNA defects much faster than in the past.
Lighter materials and more compact mechanisms have greatly improved artificial limbs, giving amputees the opportunity to live a more normal life.Robots also are being used in the operating rooms.
leoperated systems give surgeons greater control over their instruments Surgeons can now do delicate operations on the eve prostate, and other small organs they only dreamed about operating on a few years ago
These same robots make it possible for doctors to perform surgeries over long distances.
By connecting a surgical robot to the Internet, a doctor in Los Angeles can do surgery on a patient in New York Nanotechnology, with its extremely tiny machines, is transforming medicine by decreasing or eliminating the need to cut into a patient.
In industry, robots that work on assembly lines are built and programmed to repeatedly perform specific tasks, resulting in quicker production and more consistent quality.
Teleoperated robots are used in construction, mining, and agriculture. Robotic transportation moves hazardous materials around warehouses or manufacturing plants.
Obstacle avoidance becomes important in robotic transportation when the risk is high for humans or the job is routine enough to delegate to an autonomous robot, thus leaving the human free to do other things.
5. Personal Robots
Besides robots for government and business work, there is a growing number of personal robots to do our dirty work like vacuuming the floor or cutting the grass.
iRobot and other companies need robotics engineers to develop the next generation of personal robots to make each of our lives easier and more efficient
All of these robots still require human operators. All of these robots need to be maintained and improved.
Many more robots need to be developed to address other needs that we have. There is and will continue to be a great need for robot operators and robot designers for years to come