Army researchers engage with students at science and engineering festival

May 11, 2016

By Katie Hall, ARL Stem Outreach

Story Highlights

  • ARL supports 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.
  • ARL personnel spoke about ongoing research designed to make robots more autonomous
  • The Robotics Maneuver Challenge, tested participants' abilities as they tried to remotely maneuver a robot through a maze by seeing only what the robot can see

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 27, 2016) – Chad Kessens from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory captivated students and parents as he presented "A New Spin on Suction Technology – Enhancing a Robot's Grasp" on April 17 at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival held in Washington, D.C.

Kessens explained how he and his team develop and improve technologies that will allow Soldiers to use robots for grasping and manipulating as many things as possible. He showed examples of existing robotic grippers and illustrated how they required opposing forces for grasping and how difficult it becomes when the object is larger – such as a basketball.

"The solution to this problem is driven by pneumatics," Kessens said. "To help them better understand the concept, I showed them common pneumatic systems they encounter such as balloons, bike tires and blood pressure cuffs."

Kessens went on to explain the ideal gas law and defined all of the variables involved. He said he wanted the kids to understand these concepts. With that, he asked volunteers to come up on stage to help explore the relationships between the variables. They each did a simple task to help demonstrate volume and pressure relationships.

"Chad presented robotics in such a way that really excited the kids and held their interest," said Stephanie Yingling, deputy to the DOD STEM Development Program associate director. "His use of videos, pictures and demonstrations were key in capturing and holding their attention. Following his presentation, we were so impressed with his willingness to engage with all the kids until all their questions were answered."

ARL researchers were also among the DOD participants showcasing Army technology at the festival. Featuring robotics research technology, the hands-on exhibit demonstrated how difficult it is to operate a robot in an unknown environment. Throughout the three-day festival, youth of all ages tried their hands at the controls and talked with ARL personnel about ongoing research designed to make robots more autonomous.

"The exhibit, which is known as the Robotics Maneuver Challenge, tested participants' abilities as they tried to remotely maneuver a robot through a maze by seeing only what the robot can see," said Brendan Byrne, ARL technical lead, who added this was accomplished by allowing the participants to only see the robot's movement via its camera feed to a computer screen.

Exhibitors included Byrne, Dr. Philip David, Jeffrey Twigg, Allison Mathis, Michael Landes and Peter Budulas, all from ARL's Computational and Information Sciences Directorate. ARL STEM Outreach personnel were also on hand to assist with the exhibit and to answer questions about ARL and the Army Education Outreach Program.


U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: May 11, 2016