Interactive Telerobotics Exhibit

From Mindworks
Jump to: navigation, search
Team Photo
Team Name DiscoverBot
Duration Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
Sponsor Discovery Center
  • Joe Carter
  • Brian Gift
  • Nathan Park
  • Kierra Ryan
  • Tim Sonnen
  • Marshall Townsend
  • Qinlin Xu
Lead Instructor Dr. Perry
Mentor Sarah Willis

The goal of this project is to develop a robotic arm for an exhibit placed in the Discovery Center that will provide users with a first-person perspective of a remote workspace and allow them to interact with objects
from a distance in order to complete a task. The robot workstation will have a tethered stationary base with sufficient degrees of freedom to manipulate (pick, orient, and place) objects of interest. The system
will be capable of use with a specific task, such as stacking compliant objects, or playing a simple board game.

Problem Definition[edit]


  • Phase I (2017-2018 cycle): develop a single-user prototype of the telerobotic master/slave setup
  • and validate function and durability.

  • Phase II (2018-2019 cycle): extend the Phase I prototype to a mutli-user setup where 2 or more individuals can collaborate and/or compete in task completion.



  • Safety of users and spectators at all times
  • Robust design that withstands interaction by users of all ages and minimizes maintenance
  • Intuitive design that allows users of all ages to easily and quickly understand the interfaces of the exhibit
  • Maximal use of standard parts for replacement and repair
  • ADA compliant and physically accessible to a range of heights from small children to adults
  • Minimal staff supervisions while on exhibit
  • Fit within 36" cube
  • Mobile (fit through a door frame and be movable with two people)
  • Internal mechanisms should be largely visible


  • User vision of the exhibit should be restricted and user should be provided some form of 3D vision of the work space
  • Haptic feedback to the master controller
  • Large output device of visual feedback for spectators

Project Learning[edit]

Robotic Arm[edit]

After researching robotic arms and the process of designing and assembling one, we decided to look into an open source option. This would allow us to have a good starting point much quicker than if we designed an arm from the bottom up. Many open source options also are made of 3D printed parts, which would allow our client to easily replace parts of the arm. We will then later make modifications to the arm to fit our design specifications. Below are two options we narrowed our design down to.

BCN3D Moveo[edit]

The BCN3D Moveo is an open source arm with 5 degrees of freedom. All pieces of the arm are 3D printable. The arm uses steppers and servo motors for movement and is controlled by an Arudino Mega. This arm was a serious consideration, but due to a lack in documentation and having one less degree of freedom than we wanted, we decided not to go with this option.
BCN3D Moveo Open Source Arm


THOR is an open source arm with 6 degrees of freedom. This arm has 3D printable parts and users steppers and servo motors for movement. THOR is controlled using an Arduino Mega and uses an open source gcode-base firmware. One thing that put THOR in front of many other open source options we found was the extensive documentation of the development process. The THOR arm what we've decided to begin our robotic arm design with.
THOR Open Source Arm


One of our biggest challenges has been coming up with a controller design that works well and fits all of our specifications. Intuitiveness is a key aspect of controller design, as we want any patron of the Discovery Center to easily understand how to use our controller and be able to use it effectively.

Medical Focus Controllers[edit]

These are some of the first controllers we encountered during our research. Controllers of this type are mainly used in the medical field. This category includes controllers such as the Geomagic Phantom Omni and Force Dimension Omega-3. These controllers are very intuitive and offer upwards of 7 degrees of freedom which works with our arm perfectly. The issues we found with controllers in this category is that they have extremely high price points that don't fit in our budget. Another large issue is that these controllers seem to be very fragile which does not fit our design specification. We decided to not go with any controller in this category as even though many of them did fit what we were looking for in a controller, they didn't work with our design specifications.
Geomagic Phantom Omni

Master/Slave Controller Setup[edit]

The Master/Slave controller setup uses a master controller very similar in design to the robotic arm in order to control the slave (robotic arm). This was a design we had been researching since the start of the project. The issue we were finding with this design was finding a way to design a master controller that was intuitive to use. Designing a second arm similar to our robotic arm wouldn't easily allow the user to move the arm effectively due to the amount of degrees of freedom we have. While researching this type of design, we found a design from TeleroboticsCAR. Their design allowed the user to control all degrees of freedom without running into any restrictions. Their controller also allowed for haptic feedback using the handheld part of thee controller. Due to time constraints use of this controller system has been pushed back.

TeleroboticsCAR Master Controller Design

Leap Motion[edit]

The Leap Motion controller is a controller main used alongside virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift. It can be used as a standalone device to track a user's hand and lower arm. It uses two monochromatic IR cameras ans three infrared LEDs to track in a hemispherical area, to a distance of about 1 meter. This device is something we've received great reception about from users at Snapshot Day and from our client. It is another design we've decided to go ahead and focus on. There are a few issues we've seen from other designs that have used the device and from our own testing. Issues such inaccurate tracking and lag have been seen, but we've also seen the design work extremely well. We'll have to address these issues during testing.
Leap Motion Controller in Use


Initial THOR Design[edit]

Our team initially began with the THOR design as a starting point for our robotic arm. We used the given open source CAD files to print all parts of the arm. After beginning assembly, we ran into several problems with the THOR arm. These included:

  • Lack of assembly instructions
  • Frustrating assembly due to arm requiring specific order of parts for assembly and disassembly
  • Due to difficult assembly/disassembly, part replacement would also be quite difficult
  • Non-transparent and closed design
  • Poor cable management
  • Clunky and overall poor design for our goal
  • Modularity for easier access of internals

Due to these issues, we decided to begin on a improved design for our final arm. We used the original THOR design as a base for our final design.

Assembled THOR Arm

Team Information[edit]

2017 DiscoverBot Team.jpg

Team Members (from left to right)[edit]

Member Biography Discipline
Marshall Townsend Mechanical Engineering
Tim Sonnen

Tim is a senior Computer Science student at the University of Idaho. He spent his first few years studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science, but his interests changed to focus more on Computer science. He is interested in Machine Learning and embedded applications, and hopes to apply his knowledge in these fields once he graduates.

Computer Science
Joe Carter

Joe is a senior Computer Science student at the University of Idaho. He spent his first few years studying Mechanical Engineering but quickly gained interest in Computer Science. His interests are in artificial intelligence and software development. One day he hopes to apply what he's gained at the University of Idaho to a large company such as Google or Amazon.

Computer Science
Kierra Ryan Mechanical Engineering
Nathan Park

Nathan is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Idaho. He is interested in many aspects of engineering, but is particularly interested in electromechanical design, automation, and robotics. He looks forward to applying the knowledge and skills gained throughout his undergraduate degree in the industry after graduation.

Mechanical Engineering
Qinlin Xu Electrical Engineering
Brian Gift Computer Engineering

Document Archive[edit]

Gantt Chart[edit]

2017 DiscoverBot Gantt.jpg