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Frequently Asked Questions

Robotics Webcasts | Getting Started | How To...?
Robotics Compeititions | Employment / Study | General


Robotics Webcast

Q: How time-consuming is it to come up with these creations or ideas?

A: I'm not sure if I would call any part of robotics time-consuming. Certainly most things such as designing a circuit or writing programs will take time to make them work correctly, but I think that in robotics we are creating things and coming up with new ideas all the time. Robotics is a continuing effort that I don't think will ever end. There's always something to improve upon or some new idea to implement. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: What is the best part of robotics?

A: The best part of robotics is getting something to work using the efforts of many different people and skills. In robotics, there's a lot of teamwork. No one person does all the work to make a robot operate. It's always interesting to me to see all the different skills required to make our robots work. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: What is the hardest part of building robots?

A: The hardest part of building robots is finding out something didn't work the way you expected. When that happens, we usually have to go back to the drawing board and come up with some other creative way to do what we want. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: How many robots have you personally made?

A: I've never made a single robot all on my own, but I've worked on at least three or four different robots with other people while working here at NASA Ames. Robotics usually involves a collaboration of several individuals with different skills. I work on electrical engineering-related problems such as building and designing circuits whereas other people will work on mechanical, computer, software, and research issues. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: Can you describe a day at work? I assume it is not "routine" and repetitive, but can you give me an idea of what might be typical?

A: My workdays are certainly not "routine". While there are certain mundane things we all need to do each day, I think there's a different challenge in robotics to tackle everyday. Being in robotics, it seems there's no shortage of challenges and work to be done. Robotics certainly is an exciting field. One day I could be working on fixing something as simple as a broken connection whereas on another day I could be in front of my computer designing a circuit. As long as you're always willing to learn and willing to take the challenge each day, I think you will find everyday can be exciting and it will never be "routine". - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: Do you have any robots designed to assist seniors or the handicap?

A: We don't have any robots here at NASA Ames that are designed to assist the elderly or the handicapped. However, there are robots out there that help these people. At CMU (Carnegie Mellon University), there's a robot called FLO. This robot was built to help the elderly either at nursing homes and/or those seniors who are shut-in their homes. FLO has a speech interface to interact with the seniors and can contact their doctor or even tell them what's on TV. At Stanford University, there's a robot called the Helpmate 2000. This robot was built with the intent to deliver blood and samples in a lab. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: Do you have any desire to travel into space to use robotics yourself?

A: I'm sure that a lot of people would think that most people working at NASA would want to travel into space, but that isn't always true. While I enjoy working towards our NASA mission goals such as exploring space, I don't have any desire to go up into space myself. To me it's enough to know that my efforts are helping to further our dreams and hopes of learning more about places that are yet to be explored. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: How long will it be before robots build a habitat for humans on Mars?

A: That's a hard question to answer, but if any of us had to take our best guess we think perhaps 50 years or more. Since we have only begun to send robots to Mars (the first being the Mars Pathfinder mission), I think we need to collect as much information as possible about Mars before we start sending humans to Mars. By sending our robots to Mars, we can find out a lot of information from pictures taken by the robot and data taken by sensors on the robot. - NASA Robotics Engineer Linda Kobayashi

Q: How long does it take to build the robots you use in space?

A: In general, the time it takes us to build robots for space is mostly taken up with thinking about what we're going to do. For example, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) started as concepts as long ago as 1998, when we started the design of the rovers that are now FIDO and K9. The actual detailed design of the MERs started about 6-8 months ago, and we've just started to get the pieces made. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: Can any of the robots repair themselves? If they break down can they fix each other?

A: No robot or probe that has been sent to space has had the capability to mechanically fix itself. However, when mechanical problems have come up, the controllers on the ground have come up with solutions involving a change of software or operations that have allowed missions to continue. The stuck antenna on Galileo is a great example of this. Robots that can repair themselves or other robots are something that we're tackling right now. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: How do you communicate with the robots while they are in space?

A: We use radio waves. When talking to the probes, we can use powerful transmitters on the ground to send out our messages. However, the transmitters on the probes are very weak, so we have to use the huge antennae of the Deep Space Network to listen. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: What size are the robots?

A: NASA spacecraft have a wide range of sizes, from the Cassini probe, which is the size of a school bus, to the Sojourner rover, which is about the size of a microwave. When their solar panels are deployed, the Mars Exploration Rovers (going to Mars in 2003) are about the size of a dining table. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: When a rover lands, how long does it last on a planetary surface? How long does a robot live?

A: The lifetime of a robot is highly dependent on its design. The Viking landers were functional for several years. Pathfinder and Sojourner only operated for about 3 months. The Mars Exploration Rovers should have a minimum lifetime of about 90 days. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: How often do you send the robots into space?

A: For Mars, we try to fly a mission every other year. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: How do you test your robots before you send them to Mars?

A: In general, the first step is to test prototypes of our robots in realistic conditions. We have tested FIDO, the prototype for the Mars Exploration Rovers, in the Mojave Desert the last three summers. These tests are both for the rover (how well does it climb rocks, etc...) and for the operations crew (how do we command a rover to do what we need...). Next, we build at least one copy of the design that will be sent out into space and then we test it, primarily for how it will handle the physical conditions of flight, landing and operations. Among other things, we strap it to a machine that shakes it as hard as the rocket will when it launches. We also test its operations in something called a "cryo-vac" chamber that can duplicate the cold and relative vacuum of the Martian surface. - NASA Robotics Engineer Brett Kennedy

Q: When did you know this would be your field of choice?

A: Our expert, Linda Kobayashi, knew she wanted to work with robots from a young age-after she watched a public television special about robotics. She then studied a lot of math and science and worked as a high school intern at the NASA Ames Research Center. After finishing a college degree in electrical engineering, she began to work full time on robotics for NASA. Our other expert, Brett Kennedy, became interested in robotics in college and, after getting his Masters degree in mechanical engineering, began working on robotics at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Q: What have you found out about Mars?

A: Much has been discovered about Mars thanks to robotic technologies and rovers such as the Viking Landers, the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Pathfinder, and others. You can learn much more by visiting the Mars Exploration web site at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov.

Q: What are some of the civilian, non-space applications that are being developed to enhance life in conjunction to research being done by NASA in medical, security, etc?

A: The Robotics Alliance Project website (http://robotics.nasa.gov) is kept up to date with news articles about recent advances in robotics for daily life. Check back regularly for new information and articles.

Q: Will the robots replace the astronauts?

A: Rovers going to Mars are doing that right now. Rovers are the "robotic field geologists" that can move across the surface of Mars to acquire measurements, images, and other data to send back to Earth. Since robots are easier and safer to send, they are doing the early work to help us learn how we might one day send human astronauts.

Q: What is your favorite robot you have made? The simplest one? The hardest one?

A: Robotics engineers work on lots of different projects. You can check out some of NASA's robotics projects at: http://robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/

Q: Where can I buy a used robot?

A: Check out the links on the Robotics Alliance Project page (http://robotics.nasa.gov/links/links.php) and http://www.robots.org/.

Q: Is robotics a good field for girls to get into? Does NASA have a lot of girls working there?

A: NASA has women working in a wide variety of fields and areas, including robotics. Women doing all kinds of jobs contribute to robotics at NASA. Women engineers, computer programmers, scientists, artists, photographers, public relations specialists, teachers, mechanics, technicians, and many others help bring robots from ideas to reality.

Q: Do you need to take lots of school to join NASA?

A: People can work at NASA in varying capacities, from High School interns to postdoctoral fellows. For more information, please visit the Students page (http://robotics.nasa.gov/students/work.php) and read about how you might get involved.

Q: How can a High School student begin work at NASA?

A: Check out the NASA Student Programs page: http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/studentopps/employment/default.htm

Q: What college classes are required for getting a job in robotics?

A: It is different for every individual, but you can be sure that a good understanding of math, science, technology and communication is very necessary.

Q: I am interested in robots. How can I join?

A: Visit the RAP Events page to learn more about competitions and activities you can do (http://robotics.nasa.gov/events/events.php)

Q: Can robots work in ice?

A: Sure-if they are built for it. As an example, the Nomad Rover (http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/projects/meteorobot2000/) allowed scientists to remotely search for meteorites in Antarctica-a very icy area!

Q: Of all the attempts to build a humanlike robot, who and what came the closest? If nothing has been completed, will anyone try to build one?

A: There are currently many groups working to build humanoid robots at places like MIT, Honda, and the Humanoid Robotics Institute. You can find more information by searching for "humanoid robot" on the Internet. There was even an entire conference on Humanoid Robots in Japan in November.


Robotics Comeptitions

Q: A group of students at my school has formed a team to participate in FIRST Robotics Competitions. We would like more information on when and how we

A: NASA Centers all around the country provide sponsorships for first- and second-year teams based on an online application process. The application will be available early this fall on the REP website and will need to be completed by an adult organizer (like a teacher or mentor). Although NASA sponsorships cover the costs of the robotics kit, teams often also contact corporations or other entities in their area for additional sponsorship and mentors. Please visit the RAP website this fall for more information: http://robotics.nasa.gov.

Q: How can I watch the FIRST and Botball competitions on television or the web?

A:

The Robotics Education Project often webcasts FIRST and Botball Regional and National competitions. Regionals take place from February through May, the FIRST Nationals are in April and the Botball Nationals are in August. The RAP site provides information and links to these webcasts and also an archive of past competitions' webcasts.

From time to time, NASA TV broadcasts FIRST robotics competitions. You may access NASA TV using the following satellite coordinates/information:

GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.


How To...?

Q: I am interested in building a remote controlled car satisfying the following criteria 1. Rugged--one that can survive a jump of 8 inches. 2. Fairly maneuverable in 2-inch deep sand. I intend to use a 2-wheel drive, one motor for each wheel and provide differential action (for left and right turn) by turning the motors on/off separately, with the m/c going forward if both the motors are on. To bring my idea to reality, what components do I need? What should be the size/rating of the motor? What should the control ckt be made up off? I intend to use IC555 to generate the PWM. How can that be done? If the remote is to be wired to the motors on the craft then what kind of switches should I be using? Will an old dot matrix printer provide me 2 motors and 2 driving ckts for independent control? If that is not possible what type of motor should I use for fairly constant torque and good speed? Basically, I'd like to find out the step-by-step procedure for building a wired remote controlled vehicle which can beat competition when it comes to racing day.

A: It sounds likeeverything you need is really available commercially. The car could certainly be built from parts available at a hobby shop or even motors from a junkyard. A regular Radio control system for a car or plane would work, The 'trick' is to buy two good PWM speed controllers for the right and left wheel. PWM speed controllers are expensive but are the key to controlling most of the robots used in competitions like FIRST or Battlebots. You can look at this site: http://www.innovationfirst.com - FIRST robotics -victor 833 to learn about PWM controllers. The FIRST system costs $2000, but several companies make PWM controllers that work with standard radio control servo outputs.

Q: I need help finding out something about finding out what voltages I need for parts on a photovore. The web site I got the schematic from is http://www.members.aon.at/sunbeam/photovore.htm and I was wondering if you could tell me how to figure it out for myself. Please keep in mind that I am new to electronics and I don't know very much yet.

A: The circuit shows the power comes from a solar cell, but doesn't say how many volts the solar cell puts out. I would guess this circuit would work with a 3.5V solar cell, which is pretty common. BEAM robots typically use low power/voltage components so 5 volts is probably the max - the pager motors expect about 1.5 volts. If you look at the parts you'll see the part numbers on the circuit diagram - if you take the diagram with you to a RadioShack you can start looking up the parts in an Integrated or Solid State circuit guide to get the specifications. A good book on making electronic projects should help. A weekend trip to the library to look at electronic hobbyist books would help - the books from TAB are good, as well as back issues of magazines like Popular Electronics. There are web sites that have the parts specifications - but I think the best way to start making BEAM robots is to find a club near by and make some new friends - I am sure they can help you. If there are no robot clubs nearby - try some HAM radio operators.

Q: How do you build a remote control robot?

A: Well, the simplest way is to buy the $200 LEGO Mindstorms robotics invention set. However, with a lot more effort you can modify a $10 toy car and about $50 worth of circuits into a BEAM light follower. If you have a Palm pilot there is a $300 kit from acroname that you can build. There are also other projects you can learn about at https://robotics.nasa.gov/students/projects.php or at http://robot-news.com/tele-rover/. You should also check out the "Getting
Started" page: http://www.robots.org/GettingStarted.htm

Q: I am in a competition that involves building a robot that can pick up and lift items no bigger than toilet paper cardboard tubes. The dimensions can be no bigger than 30cm by 30cm by 30cm. Currently I have a design that can do it but it is not a good design -- it is not that maneuverable and I need it to be able to move 360 degrees so I don't have to turn the vehicle that it sits on around. Could you please help me out and give an idea on a simple arm design that can pick things up and lift them up 30cm?

A: Sounds like you need to mount your gripper on some sort of turntable. I think it would be easier to build your robot to turn 360 degrees. I would build a tracked or two-wheeled robot with a two degrees of freedom arm. You might also check out the LEGO 'scout' robot that has a design that uses one motor to build an arm that grabs and then lifts.

Q: What is the kinematics model (inverse and direct) for a Nomad 200 robot (a base-synchro-drive-platform robot)? Any suggestion?

A: It seems that the Nomad is not being produced any more, but they do have a support email: support@robots.com.
http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~illah/CLASSDOCS/roboman.pdf is a manual for the Nomad Scout robot - maybe that can help you.

Q: I want to build a robotic arm joint using dc motor position control system & 3D fuzzy state system. Could you tell me where I could find information about it (especially about how to control the position of dc motor)?

A: There are two types of DC motors - regular and stepper (or servo motors). Either can be used. To control a regular motor you need to build some sort of encoder. There are hundreds of types of encoders from simple switches to infrared proximity. I think a Google web search (http://www.google.com) on the topics "robotic control," "DC motor control", "shaft encoder", "stepper motor", "servo motor" would be useful. There is also a lot of information on the Internet under the topic "LEGO sensors". I can't help with 3-D fuzzy logic - but I believe many modern camcorders use fuzzy logic + infrared range sensors to focus the lens.

Q: I want to make an arm extend. Can you help?

A: There are 4 ways I can think of off hand..... 1. Scissors lift - like on an auto jack. (good for short arms, bad for long) 2. Big Screw or gear driven treads (auto seat positioning motor) - expensive 3. Chain elevator (could double in size--use lever bolted to chain - auto window-lift motor works this way.) 4. Cable or rope through telescoping tubing to a winch (can grow with as many nested tubes as there are.) This is easiest to prototype--use PVC pipe 1", 3/4" 1/2" and some nylon cord. #3 and #4 are better choices.

Q: What kind of controllers do you use?

A: In the various robotics competitions we use a variety of controllers. These include the RCX (Lego minstorms) and the HandyBoard. For FIRST we use the radio controller produced by Innovation FIRST. Many hobby robots use BASIC Stamp controllers. Bigger NASA prototypes use custom controllers running off Linux Pentium systems. Some robots don't use controllers exactly. Beam robots use custom circuits that act like a neural net. There is also a robot that will hook up to a Palm Pilot from a company called Acroname.

Q: What types of debris collect on the solar panels in space?

A: I don't know what, if anything, collects on solar panels in space - They probably accumulate damage from Solar Wind, Cosmic Rays, Micro meteorites and space debris impacts. Maybe a robot that inspects solar panels in space or cleans dusty panels on Mars is more appropriate.

Q: What methods can we use to clean the debris? (We were thinking of using electrostatics, since we obvious can't use soap and water. Is this a good idea?)

A: I don't know that electrostatics is a good idea in a vacuum. Jumping big sparks off your robot into a solar panel is probably bad for both the panel and the robot. Cleaning panels in free fall is going to be tough - every time you touch a panel you would tend to launch yourself away from it. An inspection robot would probably move using puffs of gas or some type of magnetic traction - since solar panels are usually not magnetic - this would be a problem.

Q: What types of material are generally used to make up robots in space? (We were thinking of aluminum, but what is the advantage of using aluminum, specifically?)

A: There are lots of problems in exposing robots to vacuum, but I would be more worried about my moving parts, batteries etc - how can they be made to work in the extreme environment - thermal shock, vacuum, charged particles - etc. Actually the Canadian designed Space Shuttle Manipulator Arm is a good place to begin your research - how did the engineers solve the problems of which materials to use?

Q: Dr. robot, Could you give me some web sites to help me understand how to make a robot turning right and left in C language? Where can I download linux? Which website is most helpful?

A:

I suggest you visit the sites http://www.kipr.org or http://www.kipr.org/curriculum/programming.html. In a nutshell, if you build a robot that has two motors attached to two wheels, turning on both motors forward will make you go straight, turning on one forward and one in reverse will make you spin in one direction, reversing the polarity will make you spin in the other direction. If you can control how long you have each motor on, you will be able to steer the robot.

NQC is a C-like programming environment for the LEGO RCX robotics brick. You can download it for free from the Internet. There are versions for Windows systems, but I am not sure about linux.


Getting Started

Q: My son wants to do a school report on "robots that perform dangerous tasks", such as law enforcement, bomb squad, military, volcanic research robots, or other robots that perform dangerous tasks in lieu of humans. Could you provide me with links that address these topics?

A: I would do a search on "Urban Search and Rescue" robots. Several different types were used during the WTC recovery effort. Here are 3 websites that discuss this topic. Other searches could be done on "military robots", "bomb disposal robots", and "law enforcement robots." The robot that explores volcanos is called "Dante."

http://www.csee.usf.edu/robotics/USAR
http://www.aaai.org/Conferences/National/2000/Exhibits/urban.html
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/09/
0914_TVdisasterrobot.html

Also, you might suggest that he research some of NASA's robotic planetary explorers. These are robots certainly doing jobs too dangerous or impossible for humans!

Q: I am a 9th grade science teacher. I am interested in incorporating a robotic lab into one of my lesson plans. Are there groups that come to high schools to perform demonstrations?

A: If you would like someone to come out to your school you may be able to get a representative from an educational robotics company like LEGO or K'nex. You might also post your question to the RoboEducators group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nRoboEducators.

Q: We are interested in obtaining funding for implementing a robotics program for a group of gifted and talented students at an intermediate school. Do you have advice on finding funding sources?

A: I'd suggest that you join the RoboEducators group, coordinated out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, since they send out mailings and share a lot of resources and information (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nRoboEducators/). Many of the members are trying to develop robotics curricula for the local or state level and would be glad to help you progress.

Q: My elementary school child is interested in robotics. Is there some information or instructions on how to construct a robot to promote science and engineering for young students?

A:

Red Rover, Red Rover is a neat way to get students from K and up interested in building and controlling robots. It provides an interactive learning experience through building and operating a LEGO micro-rover with a camera and the martian terrain to drive it on. You might be able to interest your student's class in investing in one since students can also drive other schools' rovers remotely over the Internet. You can get more information on this program from: http://planetary.org/rrrr/index.html.

For 9-14 year old students, there are programs that allow students to build
more complex LEGO robots that can follow lines, use sensors, and solve
design challenges. One program is FIRST LEGO League, which uses a LEGO Mindstorms Kit and gives the students a new challenge to build to each year. There are then regional and national tournaments where teams compete in the challenge. More information is available at: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/.

You might also want to check out our Educators page under "Grades K-5" for more ideas!

Q: I am interested in participating about learning and building robots. Please advise me of how to start.

A:

Here are some suggested places for people of all ages interested in building robots:

Try making your own nanorover model at: http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/muses2.htm

Check out this site for answers to frequently asked questions about Mars rovers: http://wufs.wustl.edu/fido/b_faq.htm

For information from aerospace to deep space, visit http://quest.arc.nasa.gov
You may also be interested to know that information on all NASA Education Projects (for students and for teachers) is contained at http://education.nasa.gov/

If you are interested in trying to build and program your own robot, try the FIRST Lego League http://www.firstlegoleague.org/, Botball http://www.botball.org, or FIRST Robotics http://www.usfirst.org.

Q: I am looking for beginner robotics curriculum and materials for elementary grades. Where might I find such information?

A:

There are some great web sites that can help your students get started:

They can try making their own nanorover model at: http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/muses2.htm.

There is also a wide range of activities available at: http://athena.cornell.edu/educators/lesson_plans.html and
http://athena.cornell.edu/kids/home_demos.html

To try building and programming a small robot, you might try the FIRST Lego League--maybe you can even get something started in your school: http://www.firstlegoleague.org/.

The Trinity College Home Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest is open to competitors of all ages and is held in Hartford, Connecticut (http://www.trincoll.edu/events/robot/).

Red Rover, Red Rover another way to get students involved building a simple LEGO robot and martian terrain. You can get more information on this program from: http://planetary.org/rrrr/index.html.

Also, check out our Educators page at http://robotics.nasa.gov/a_educators.htm for other sites that have curricular material.

Q: I am a teacher interested in getting more information about bringing robotics into my classroom and possibly sharing ideas with other educators who have similar interests.

A: There is a group for educators interested in robotics that is coordinated out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and has a corresponding online group that you can join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nRoboEducators. There you can post questions and sign up to have the latest information sent to you via email.

Q: I am a student interested in robot design and control, but I don't know where to start. I am considering learning to use the PIC microcontroller to base my studies on but I don't know that much about it. My main goal is to learn to use my computer to control geared motors precisely, so I can build my robot. What should I do?

A:

The PIC and other controller chips can be effectively used to build low-level control functions for a robot, but they are not a good place to start learning about robotics. The microcontroller is only part of what is needed to develop complex robot behavior. It's too easy for a beginner to get caught up in just trying to control a servo or to adjust the power to a motor based on some sensor input. The real pay-off in my mind is if you can avoid the control details and write a program which supervises many low-level behaviors so that, for example, a robot can search for the direction to a light, move toward it until some intensity is reached, and then reach out, until it touches the light structure and move the structure for some purpose. All the while it should also be able to test internally to see if time limits are exceeded or if a motor is stalled and execute some recovery action based on sensing these conditions. To design a robot with hardware and software which can do all these things requires: (1) a microcontrolling system with memory, a set of input ports, output ports, a digital clock, a power supply, a programming interface to a host computer with a high-level programming environment, and libraries of input and output functions; (2) a set of motors, servos, light and touch sensors, and structural elements compatible with the microcontroller and the sensors, motors, etc.

I only know of a couple of kits that satisfy most of these requirements: (1) the LEGO Mindstorms Invention System (http://www.rentron.com/Lego_Mindstorms.htm, Limited input/output and no servo drivers, and I recommend using "Not Quite C" programming environment for Windows95-2000, available as a free download); and (2) The MIT Handy Board kits (one with many servos and sensors and LEGO parts and "Interactive C" programming environment, http://el.www.media.mit.edu/groups/el/projects/handy-board/) Other kits are being developed (including one using a PIC microprocessor and an interface to a Palm Pilot, for programming and high-level running, from Acroname Inc.) and may satisfy all of these requirements, but I don't have experience with them as yet. A good way to get started with other interested students, and support from your local school and community would be to participate in either the FIRST LEGO League Competition for middle school students (http://www.firstlegoleague.org/), or Botball Tournaments for upper middle school and high school students (http://www.botball.org). All the products and organizations can be further described on their web sites. NASA does not endorse these organizations, but is a contributing sponsor and host for the competitions as part of our Robotics Alliance Project outreach.


General

Q: How can I find out about robotics summer camps?

A: Here are some links to summer camps around the country. Some have
associated opportunities for teachers:

"New!" http://www.njcate.org/content/events/
http://www.wpi.edu/Admin/AO/Frontiers/

http://www.rec.ri.cmu.edu/education/robocamp2002/index.shtml
http://www.west.cs.cmu.edu/~robocamp/
http://www.spacewest.com/SummerCampHome.htm
http://engineering.lssu.edu/summercamps/
http://www.usfirst.org/place/prg_art2.htm

You might also join the RoboEducators mailing list that is made up of educators and interested people from around the country. It is a great venue for posting questions to a very knowledgeable group. The list is coordinated by Ken Berry at California State University - Northridge and you can email him to join: ksberry@csun.edu

Q: I'm a student in Computer Information Systems and this semester I've taken "robotics and machine vision" as an elective course. I'm doing a paper on robots with odor sensors and I would like you to inform me on their uses or suggest some links related to my subject.

A:

This is an interesting topic. The sense of smell is very complex and a lot harder to model than touch, hearing or vision. It is also more difficult to produce a robot nose. Light and sound are one type of energy, touch is basically temperature and pressure (two types of information), but sense of smell is the ability to detect thousands of different chemical compounds. In the lab this is done by a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer which identifies compounds by chemical characteristics. Noses do this with specialized sensors specific for certain compounds.

Advances in nanotechnology and biotechnology will certainly make it easier to identify certain compounds, but a robot bloodhound is far off. Likewise I think prosthetic eyes and ears will likely be available long before a nose.

But perhaps building a robot that can smell a flower or detect the quality of a wine is not what we need. Perhaps a robot that can detect carbon dioxide or other odorless but hazardous substances is much better. Here is an article that might be of interest.

http://www.circuitcellar.com/pastissues/articles/silvio108/article.htm

Q: Can you tell me the history of robotics?

A: Here are some links to get you started:

http://www.galileo.org/robotics/index.html http://www.thetech.org/exhibits_events/online/robotics/universal/ http://www.geocities.com/Eureka/7331/hrorobot.htm http://web.mit.edu/sts001/www/Team10/team10page1.html

Q: Why are you using robots to explore a asteroid?

A: Scientists believe that some asteroids are made up of materials that are the same as those original materials, which formed planets very long ago. Some asteroids are relatively unaltered since the planets formed. That is, they are unchanged and contain primitive materials. By studying the structure and chemical makeup of such asteroids, scientists can get clues about the initial composition of our own planet Earth and the conditions under which it formed billions of years ago. One way to get close enough to explore asteroids and take measurements of their material properties is by using robots, with cameras and scientific instruments that can transmit data and information about asteroid structure and chemical composition to scientists on Earth. (The same can be said of comets.) A spacecraft can orbit an asteroid and take remote measurements without landing on the asteroid, but a robot that can land and move around on the surface can take very close-up measurements that provide more useful information. Space scientists at NASA and other space agencies on Earth would study the images and data acquired by the robot and transmitted back to earth. In addition, asteroids contain an abundance of the same raw materials as Earth, which are very important resources for our current way of life. Many scientists and commercial businesses (besides space scientists) are also interested in using robots in the future to mine asteroids, that is, to extract raw materials for use on Earth.


Employment / Study

Q: I am interested in learning more about robotics and I have some knowledge of C, C++ and Java. I'd like to join a course. If your course is a correspondence course, then I'd be interested in it. Please give me the details of your course.

A: Thanks for your interest in our online robotics course. The course will be given over an 8-week period starting in late spring 2002 and will be available free on the web. It will highlight some of the new and exciting applications of robotics and what research is being done. Please check back on our web site for more information about the course and how to participate.

Q: I am a high school student interested in science, math, and technology. Do you know how I might find out what opportunities NASA has for robotics engineers?

A:

Opportunities for robotics engineers at NASA continue to grow as robotic space exploration becomes a priority.

To get involved with hands-on robotics while you are still in high school, consider participating in FIRST, Botball, or other robotics competitions. Through participation in programs such as these, you and your teammates have the opportunity to build a robot to respond to the competition parameters and then face off against other teams regionally and nationwide.

As you start to look at colleges, consider a college that has a program in robotics. Such programs can be found by looking at the Universities and Government list and the University robotics list. You also might want to look into NASA's Student Programs. When you're ready to look for a job, try the NASA-wide jobs and Spaceflight jobs web sites.


 FirstGov  NASA
Curator: Drew Price
NASA Official: Mark Leon
Last Updated:
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