Summer 2012 Robot Adventures


I spent the summer after my junior year of high school working as an intern at UCSB with five peers getting a rapid, hands-on introduction to control theory. The internship was lead by Dr. Jason Isaacs (check out his page about the internship here). Most of what we did was collaborative, however one of my favorite projects was one which involved a competition. The goal was to write an algorithm that would autonomously use a round robot to push a round coffee can into a round goal as quickly as possible. Location feedback for the can and robot were provided by a Vicon motion capture system. Thanks to some inspiration while visiting the gentleman's room (for some reason the core idea of my algorithm came to me while in the bathroom), my algorithm was twice as fast as the runner up.
A robot running my algorithm can be viewed here:

Later on that summer, we teamed up with a couple other interns and programmed the robot to track the coffee can with a Microsoft Kinect rather than the Vicon system:

While I loved all the projects, the final project I made up for myself was probably the coolest thing I worked on that summer. I wrote a graphical autonomous waypoint controller which allowed the user to set a series of waypoints for a robot to drive through, all with the click of a mouse. It even supported switching control between multiple robots:

As if getting paid to program robots wasn't good enough, I got to spend the last two weeks of summer working at an orphanage in Haiti, traveling to Key West, and visiting family in South Carolina. Needless to say, Summer 2012 was a great one.