News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 14, 2013

Expo highlights Rose seniors’ skills

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Seniors at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Wednesday displayed their skills in robotics, computer science and software engineering.

As part of Senior Project Expo, 18 senior exhibits where displayed. Some examples include designing interactive programs for a robot made from LEGOs or using an inertial measurement unit for a self-balancing unicycle, to designing software that allows a driver to see more feedback information to get the best efficient performance.

Using a LEGO MindStorms Kit, seniors Kyle Bristol of Bloomington, Emily Graetz of Dayton, Ohio and Brandon Kmetz of Las Vegas, Nev., are designing a robotic display for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

The display, to be encased in Plexiglas, uses a game controller attached to a small laptop with a large screen display to operate a LEGO robot. “It is an interactive game system. There will be a grid with lights. We have different game modes we are programming, some for little kids, and puzzle games for older kids,” Bristol said.

The robot tosses a 2-inch ball to hit a target on a grid, and the controller allows the robot to move left or right and aim up or down to hit a target.

“Something for the older kids is a programmer interface to teach very, very basic automation of the robot. It will teach them how to write a program that the robot will then execute without them touching it,” Bristol said.

The group is working on a $2,500 budget for the project, which is expected to be completed by May.

“We know that LEGOs are a huge draw for our guests. We have worked with Rose-Hulman on various LEGO events in the past, so we thought maybe creating a permanent exhibit would be a good opportunity to allow our guests to see LEGOs in a different way,” said Lynn Hughes, executive director of the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

“The whole goal of the museum is to take things that kids really enjoy and show them the science behind it. This robotic exhibit is a great way to do that and gives them that excitement about science,” Hughes said.

Another team is working for National Instruments, designing and building a self-balancing unicycle robot to showcase National Instruments’ newest Robotics Tool Kit and its new compact Real-Time controllers.

“It is a demonstration project for the new Real-Time control units, called cRIO, which is compact Real Time Input Output. It is a way to demonstrate their robotics programming platform, called LabVIEW,” said Kevin Collins, a senior from Evansville.

“The whole idea is to test the flow of a project like this,” Collins said. “It is for industrial applications, such as for conveyors, printers, cutters and extruders.”

Other team members are seniors Spencer Carver of Gurnee, Ill., Ander Solorzano from Caracas, Venezuela, and Ruffin White-Magner of Waukon, Iowa. The team has 10 weeks to complete the project, which is to be demonstrated this summer at a convention in Austin, Texas.

Rose-Hulman’s EcoCar 2 team is using a 2013 Chevrolet Mailbu to develop split-parallel plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technology as part of a three-year competition, primarily sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory and General Motors.

“Our goal is to create a user interface for a touchscreen that will go into the EcoCar,” said Ruben Rodriguez, a senior from Chicago.

“The driver will be able to control the radio, the climate control and also see the status of the car, such as fluid levels and tire pressure,” Rodriguez. The touchscreen will go where the car’s current radio is located.

“It provides something easier for the driver to control and see information about the car,” Rodriguez said. The idea is to give the driver good feedback to get the most efficient performance from the car. For example, while driving on the interstate, information about routing, mileage, fuel stations and driving conditions may best help the driver.

The team — which includes Trevor Krenz of Cary, Ill., Matt Iwema of Chicago and seniors Mark Wlodarski and Eric Henderson — also has 10 weeks to complete the project.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.