When Olivier Chatot attended the Humanoid Robotics Competition during IAP last year, he was interested in learning how to program a robot to move and fight. He didn’t expect that the class would lead to a UROP at CSAIL continuing his IAP class project, working on the Little Dog research project, or playing a key role in teaching this year’s IAP course. "But that is one of the real goals of the course, to give students access to robots they normally wouldn’t get a chance to play with and to get them involved and interested in the field of robotics," says Olivier.
This year’s teams began by assembling the commercially available KHR-2HV robot from Kondo and learning the basics of robotic arm and leg motion. Through a technique called inverse kinematics, they calculate the joint angles required to move an arm or leg to a determined point in space. Teams are given the inverse kinematics functions for the robot legs and work out the kinematics of the arms during the course. They use these functions to design motions for their robots and program a Sony Playstation controller to interface with their robot during the competition.
There are 10 students in this year’s class, ranging in experience from freshmen to graduate students. “We make an effort to tailor the projects for each student, so everyone is challenged”, says Olivier. "We have lecturers come in from a variety of robotics projects, so that students are exposed to different robotics research that is going on around MIT and have an opportunity to meet the researchers".
The course is inspired by the Robo One competion, one of the most popular robotics competitions in Japan. A group of graduate students, led by Ken Endo, created the IAP course last year. Olivier talks animatedly about ideas for growing the course for next year; admitting more students, adding new equipment like simulators, and taking advantage of IMU devices on the robots to use feedback and improve the robot's stability.
This year’s course will end on Wednesday, January 30th with a competition and exhibition open to the public. Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with both students and their humanoid robots. Then the teams will face off in speed walking, stair climbing, range of motion competitions, and, finally, the much anticipated combat rounds where teams use their programmed motions to try to push each other out of the field of combat. When asked if his robot would be competing Olivier says "Well, it wouldn’t be fair since this is my second year, maybe I will take on the winner. Come and watch it should be fun!"