A self-balancing human transporter designed by Rensselaer undergraduate engineering students will take center stage at an international conference attended by thousands of engineers. The students will demonstrate their device, which is modeled after the Segway Human Transporter, during an Aug. 9 keynote address at NIWeek, the world's largest virtual instrumentation conference and exhibition, held Aug. 8-10 in Austin, Texas.
Two engineering seniors -- Matthew Rosmarin and Teresa Bernardi -- will join Tim Dehne, National Instruments senior vice president of research and development, on stage during his Aug. 9 keynote address. The students worked under the guidance of Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer.
"The Segway is an excellent example of a mechatronic system, the result of the integration through design of mechanical engineering, electronics, computers, and controls," said Craig, who created the Mechatronics Teaching and Research Laboratory at Rensselaer. "This is truly a multidisciplinary project, which is what mechatronics and engineering are all about."
With permission from Segway Inc., the project began in January 2005 as part of Rensselaer's spring semester Mechatronic System Design class, where a team of students built a prototype human transporter. Based on that experience, Craig designed a table-top version during the summer to use as a case study in the fall semester. In spring 2006, a new team of five students developed the current version of the human transporter presented at NIWeek. In addition to Rosmarin and Bernardi, the three other team members were Laura Corman, Corey Gray, and Jennifer Scharfe.
The first version worked reasonably well, according to Craig, but this year the students took advantage of National Instruments LabVIEW graphical development environment to integrate the design process and produce a drastically improved transporter.
"This system will be used for many years to come at Rensselaer as a case study in mechatronics and as motivation for our engineering freshmen," Craig said. "Every skill used to create this system is essential for the practice of engineering in the 21st century."
The human transporter is just one example of mechatronic systems created by Rensselaer students. Others include an automotive traction control test bed, a planetary-gear inverted pendulum, and a hybrid hydraulic/pneumatic positioning system. The traction control system was used on the Rensselaer Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Team Car this year.
Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development Corporation and inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, will deliver the closing keynote address at NIWeek on Aug. 10. Kamen visited the Rensselaer campus in December 2005 as part of the annual Trustee Celebration of Faculty Achievement. He met with high school and middle school students involved in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions, discussing his passion for exciting the next generation of scientists and engineers. And of course he brought his Segway along for the trip.
National Instruments was cofounded in 1976 by Rensselaer alumnus and trustee Jeffrey L. Kodosky '70, who subsequently served as the company's vice president of research and development from 1980 until he was named an NI Business and Technology Fellow in 2000. Considered the father of the award-winning NI LabVIEW graphical development environment, he headed the National Instruments research team that in 1986 produced the powerful G programming language, which lies at the heart of the LabVIEW development environment. Both Kodosky and National Instruments provide generous support for the Mechatronics Lab at Rensselaer.
Kevin Craig also plans to participate in other aspects of NIWeek. He will present on mechatronics with colleagues from the University of Michigan on Tuesday afternoon, and he will participate in Wednesday's Graphical System Design Summit Panel Discussion, which also includes James Truchard, cofounder, president, and CEO of National Instruments.
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