Hey everyone, it’s Alex again! Today I’m going to talk about my experiences in RoboLab and how easy it is to get involved in robotics projects as a first year.
I was lucky over the summer to meet some students already at Olin, including someone who leads the soft robotics teams here. I learned a lot about his research during that time, and when I finally settled into Olin I decided I wanted to get involved in robotics.
I went to the weekly RoboTea and Cookies meeting and asked about what projects were in the works. I talked to other students about some of my interests—exploring different materials, working on electronics, and bio-inspiration. I was directed to Katya ’19, a senior who has built a prototype articulated robotic fish!
The RoboFish project aims to make a small robotic fish that can conduct aquatic research. Unlike most aquatic robots, which are large, expensive, and have limited range, our robot can be swarmed to cover large ground. This means that you can program many of the small robots to coordinate their movement, much like a school of fish might. There’s a lot of work to be done on the project, though it’s amazing what’s already been done. At Olin, if you have an idea you can make it happen!
At this point, the robot can swim forward, so new questions come up: How can we direct its motion? How can we untether it so it can actually explore the ocean?
A few other first years are working on answering these questions with me.
A lot of the work we’re doing encompasses things we have little to no experience with—we learn as we go. At the start of this project, I didn’t know what the Hall Effect was, let alone what a Hall Effect sensor would do. I had no clue what an H-bridge was. Now, though, I could explain the entire system to someone else, and I’m in the process of making a wiring diagram for all these components!
There are times we fail—my first wiring diagrams have been completely illegible. But working on a project with other students who understand we’re all learning makes it more engaging, and all the more rewarding when you do get it right!
Olin is all about learning through experience, and the different RoboLab projects provide plenty of different experiences for you to explore. Plus, with it being almost entirely student-run, everyone is easy to approach. I highly encourage you to check out some of our projects if you’re visiting and get involved if you become a student! We’d love to have you!