Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

Symposia organized for the 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics Conference

The 2016 Mechanisms and Robotics conference is part of International Design Engineering Technical Conferences organized by ASME International in Charlotte, North Caroline, August 22-24.

Plenary speaker Bernard Roth is the Academic Director of Stanford University’s and the author of the Achievement Habit.

You can find out more about each of the symposia at these links:


Rolling Robot at SUTD

Virgo 2 SUTD

Virgo 2 SUTD

A research team including Profs. GimSong Soh, Kristin Wood and Kevin Otto at Robotics Innovation Lab at the Singapore University of Technology and Design has developed a rolling robot about the size of a baseball. The design and motion planning of this robot, Virgo 2.0, was presented at the Mechanisms and Robotics Conference which was part of the 2015 ASME Design Engineering Technical Conferences, August 2-5, in Boston, MA. A demonstration of the Virgo 2.0 moving through a figure eight path around obstacles is shown in the video below.

An Interesting Planar Robot at Laval

Students of Prof. Clement Gosselin at the Laval University Robotics Laboratory demonstrate a four-degree of freedom planar robot. I particularly like the demonstration of its use as a gripper that does a cartwheel just for fun.

Tensegrity Robotics at UC Berkeley

Students in Prof. Alice Agogino’s Berkeley Emergent Space Technologies Laboratory, the BEST Lab, working on motion planning for their tensegrity robot.

Wearable Robotics Put Spring in Your Step

Wearable electronics or “wearables” are seen as the next great wave of technology and commerce. Much of the popular talk about these kinds of products revolves around things like fitness trackers, augmented reality devices, and other machines you can wear that interact with, track, or add on to your experience with the world around you. Thomas Sugar, a professor at Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus and a wearable robotics expert works on a different kind of wearable.

Along with his colleagues and students, he has developed a new generation of powered prosthetic devices that can be used for rehabilitation and as prosthetics for amputees. He works on spring-based robots that enhance human mobility based on lightweight energy storing springs that allow for a more responsive and therefore more functional human gait. His devices make position control calculations 1,000 times per second to make the prosthetics as human as possible.

Sugar starts from a “human being first” research perspective since his devices must be wearable and efficient. In his devices, spring power and motor power combine to create a powered system that gives prosthetic ankles the “push off” and “toe pick up” they need in order to mimic the function of human ankles.

His idea of a robotic tendon is much more efficient than a direct drive system, which would require more electricity and larger, more powerful motors.   In fact, his innovation uses half the required energy of a direct drive system powered prosthetic ankle.

In a different device attached to the ankle Sugar uses able-bodied movement to harvest energy from walking. His company SpringActive developed a boot attachment with the military in mind that turns walking into back up power for batteries with negligible metabolic cost.

The real world and commercial applications for this kind of research are far reaching.   For more on Thomas Sugar’s and his colleagues’ work, visit and

Workshop on 21st Century Kinematics

21st Century Kinematics

21st Century Kinematics

The NSF Workshop on 21st Century Kinematics at the 2012 ASME IDETC Conference in Chicago, IL on August 11-12, 2012 consisted of a series of presentations and a book of supporting material prepared by the workshop contributors.

The book is now available at 21st Century Kinematics–The 2012 NSF Workshop.

And here are the seven primary presentations given at the workshop.

  1. Computer-Aided Invention of Mechanisms and Robots. J. Michael McCarthy, Professor, University of California, Irvine.
  2. Mechanism Synthesis for Modeling Human Movement. Vincenzo Parenti-Castelli, Professor, University of Bologna.
  3. Algebraic Geometry and Kinematic Synthesis. Manfred Husty, Professor, University of Innsbruck.
  4. Kinematic Synthesis of Compliant Mechanisms. Larry Howell, Professor, Brigham Young University.
  5. Kinematics and Numerical Algebraic Geometry. Charles Wampler, Technical Fellow, General Motors Research and Development.
  6. Kinematic Analysis of Cable Robotic Systems. Vijay Kumar, Professor, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Protein Kinematics. Kazem Kazerounian, Professor, University of Connecticut.

Colleagues joined in with two additional presentations:

Many thanks to the contributors and the attendees for an outstanding workshop.

Update: The presentation links have been fixed.

Kinematics and Polynomials–available on a Mac

Until yesterday, my iBooks Introduction to Theoretical Kinematics and Kinematics and Polynomials were available only on the iPad, but now with OSX Mavericks they are available on any Mac. Please give it a try. You can download a sample at this link: Kinematics and Polynomials sample.

Mechanical characters

Disney Research guides two degree-of-freedom open chains using the coupler curve of a geared five-bar linkage to obtain geared seven-bar and nine-bar linkages, which they use to move the front and rear legs of their Cyber Tiger. By connecting the driving gears of the four legs, they obtain a one degree-of-freedom system that animates the Cyber Tiger.

The computational design system uses an optimization routine to adjust the coupler curve of the five-bar linkage to approximate a given curve in order to guide the system in a desired movement. The results are terrific, and look a lot like the mechanical toys of the past. Select this link for more information.

Six-bar Linkage Design for Mechanical Computation

Six-bar linkages

Six-bar linkages

Our paper Numerical Synthesis of Six-bar Linkages for Mechanical Computation provides the mathematical theory that underlies the synthesis of a six-bar linkage with an input-output relationship that approximates a specified function. This describes how the Stephenson III six-bar linkage that sets the elevation for a ballistic trajectory was designed.

Waldron Fest: May 16-17, 2013

Waldron Inspires

Waldron Inspires

This poster was prepared as a gift to Ken Waldron on his 70th birthday and given to him at a conference organized in his honor. Anuj Taneja generated the SolidWorks model in 2006 from the original drawings of the Adaptive Suspension Vehicle. I recently found the electronic files and Kaustubh Sonawale generated the four-view drawing. The ASV is an important feat of engineering and the stories shared by those who worked on it were wonderful.