DMA Builds the Ultimate Robotics Camp

By Phill Powell

DMA-Robotics-Camp
DMA campers build and battle robots for the Ultimate Sumo Bot Challenge.

They battle it out on the big screen for our entertainment (Pacific Rim) and vacuum our floors for nothing (Roomba). They’re robots, and they’re getting more and more in reach of the average person.

And they’re now also looking more familiar…like things we’re used to. Robots have often taken on a familiar persona. Some appear almost human, but sleek and futuristic…Others resemble Jetsons-era klankers from science fiction’s golden age.

The Robots Are Coming!
Regardless of what robots look like, it can’t be denied that robotics is now central to modern life. And during the next 20 years, engineers—specifically robotics engineers—will be the jobs of the future. Sure, there are engineering and robotics engineering jobs now, but soon there will be many more of them.

Understanding robotics can lead to a huge variety of lucrative jobs, because so many different industries depend on robotics of one type or another. The list is huge, including manufacturing (automobile production), defense (military applications), healthcare (robotic-limb replacement) and construction (home building).

DMA-Robotics-Camp-desktopCampers create amazing robots using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kit and their imagination.

DMA is helping kids and teens who want those jobs plan for future careers. Every summer, campers in DMA’s robotics courses are having the time of their lives while getting a real taste of what mechanical engineering and robotics is all about.

Getting in Gear
In DMA’s Adventures in Robotics camp for kids 8 to 12, each student is assigned a complete kit of the leading robotics equipment for hobbyists: LEGO® MINDSTORMS® EV3. Teen robotics camps include Arduino™, one of the hottest programming languages around.

But whichever equipment they’re using, these robot-builders are getting the ultimate robotics camp experience—including DMA’s Ultimate Sumo Bot Challenge, where campers build the best ‘bot they can, then fight them against the creations of other campers.

And at DMA, we don’t cut corners. Campers get their own Apple computer workstation for project use during the camp, plus all the robotics equipment students could possibly need, and then some! DMA stocks each LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kit with not only the standard NXT kit, but also adds hundreds of dollars of more cool LEGO® parts to each campers kit. Building the robot of your dreams has never been easier or more fun.

DMA-Robotics-KitEach DMA robotics camper gets their own robotics kit to use during the camp. The kit includes the base LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kit ($299) and DMA adds additional parts to the kit, which raises its value to $700-$800.

Building a Robot Cat
If you don’t believe that robots have gotten increasingly sophisticated and lifelike, it’s time you met Cheetah Cub.

Developed by the biorobotics department of a Swiss university (the Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne), through a research project sponsored by the European Commission, the Cheetah Cub moves like a cat. We’re not saying it sneaks around corners, but literally walks like a cat.

Cheetah-Cub-robotic-cat-1
The Cheetah-Cub uses strings to simulate cat tendons and actuators to mimic its leg muscles.

The Cheetah-Cub is the size of an average house cat. It has no coat of fur to hide its robotic insides, but once you see it move you will appreciate its sophisticated feline step, which is muscular and slinky like a genuine cat running along. What gives the robot its letter-perfect cat motion is the way it replicates cat anatomy.

A cat’s motion is controlled through the tendons and muscles in its legs. The Cheetah-Cub uses elastic strings to simulate the motion of tendons and robot actuators to do the work of a cat’s leg muscles. It gets a good little trot going, too, sometimes moving along at speeds of up to 1.42 meters per second. Its inventor, Alex Sproewitz, claims the Cheetah-Cub is the fastest robot of its size. See for yourself:

Robots Rock!
Its creators aren’t finished with Cheetah-Cub. Lately they’ve been working to improve its ability to scale rough terrain. Right now the robot isn’t intended to become a commercially available robot, and is mostly intended to advance the cause of robotics and biomechanics research, but who knows? In a few years, you may see people out taking walks with their robotic cat. Imagine that: a cat actually being walked on a leash! Finally!