Links to student design projects

Fall 2021 Mechanical Walker Designs

This video presents the mechanical walker prototypes designed and constructed by the students in my Kinematic Synthesis of Mechanisms class. They design and simulate the leg mechanism using Geogebra, then use SolidWorks to generate a details digital model and simulate its movement. Next they build and actuate two legs to test the motor drive and electronics. Finally, they assemble the complete walker and test it.

Design of Mechanical Walking Robots

Now Available on Amazon

In this book, we present the detailed design of mechanical walking robots that are driven by a single motor.  These walkers rely on specially designed leg mechanisms coordinated by gear trains in order to walk, rather than multiple computer controlled motors per leg.  The result is a simplified walking robot that provides a platform for other mechanical and electronic functions.

Two, four and six legged walkers are presented that implement different types of leg mechanisms and power trains.  In each case, we provide drawings for a laser cut wood or acrylic chassis, 3D printed parts and a complete parts list.  Several of the designs implement an additional motor for steering as well as electronic components and software for speed control.

Our goal is to provide enthusiasts of all backgrounds what they need to build a walking robot at home, to explore new design ideas, and, perhaps, to enjoy the operation of one of these robots as it moves across the ground.   

The paperback version is available from Amazon.

Design of Mechanical Walking Robots
Design of Mechanical Walking Robots

Prototype Four-Legged Mechanical Walker

Kevin Chen and Arwa Tizani designed this four-legged mechanical walker using Curvature theory to identify a flat-sided coupler curve of a four-bar linkage. This curve was positioned to be the foot trajectory of the leg mechanism using a skew-pantograph.

Kevin collected the parts and assembled the walker. Here are his photos and video of its performance:

The Design of Mechanical Walkers: Spring 2020 Student Projects

While isolated to slow infections of the Coronavirus, over 60 UCI students learned how to apply the principles of Curvature Theory and Finite-Position Synthesis to the design leg mechanisms for mechanical walkers.

Their first team project was a four-legged walker that used the coupler curve of a four-bar linkage positioned using a skew-pantograph as the foot trajectory. Here are videos that show animations of their walkers

This is the first video:

And this is the second:

The final team project used finite-position synthesis to design function generators to drive the hip and knee joints and guide the foot trajectory. This mechanism is a generalization of the Jansen leg mechanism. Teams of three students designed the leg mechanism, the drive system and assembled them into a six-legged walker. Here are the videos of these walkers.

This is the first video:

And this is the second video:

The variety of these walkers show the versatility of the kinematic synthesis procedures, as well as the creativity of the students. It was a pleasure working with the students on these projects even with the challenges of remote instruction.

Halloween Display 2019

This video shows how the linkage systems moving spooky decorations designed by my six student teams were combined into a Halloween display.

Design Research Dalian

Design Research in China: Dalian

Design Research Dalian

Design Research Dalian

This is the third of five videos highlighting design research across China.  This captures the beauty of Dalian, a city on the Yellow sea, and the excellent research in precision machine design by colleagues and their students at Dalian University of Technology.

Here is a link to this video on Youku for our colleagues in China:

Youku Dalian

Youku Dalian

Design Research Xian

Design Research in China: Xi’an

Design Research Xian

Design Research Xian

This video of our visit to Xi’an captures the beauty of the city and its surroundings, as well as the personality of the excellent professors and students at Xidian University.

For our colleagues in China, here is a link to a Youku version of this video:

Youku Xian Video

Youku Xian Video

Design Research Tianjin

Design Research in China: Tianjin

Design Research Tianjin

Design Research Tianjin

Chris McCarthy filmed and edited this video of our visit to Tianjin, which showcases the design research in mechanisms and robotics at Tianjin University and captures the energy and beauty of the city and its people.

For our colleagues in China this video is available on

Youku Design Tianjin

Youku Design Tianjin

Kaustubh and Mark

Mark Plecnik, PhD and Kaustubh Sonawale, PhD

Kaustubh and Mark

Kaustubh and Mark

Mark Plecnik and Kaustubh Sonawale both successfully presented their dissertation defense this week. Their kinematics research has resulted new computational procedures that have made possible many new designs.

See Mark’s web page and Kaustubh’s web page for examples of interesting devices that are the result of their research.

Rescue Robotics: Project Based Learning


UCI, Vital Link and Orange County high schools and colleges are working together to organize a Rescue Robotics event in May of 2015. The Rescue Robotics challenge provides an opportunity for students in information and communication technology programs across Orange County to test their skills using ground and aerial robots to find and identify simulated human survivors.

Rescue Robotics Challenge Details

The Rescue Robotics competition has three main principles, each of which imposes difficult challenges on the student team which are important for the real world application of this kind of robot.

1 – Each robot must be safely autonomous. In other words, the robot needs to be programmed to do the work of finding survivors on its own without help from the student team.  This is an important need if robots are to help us search disaster areas.

2 – The robot must work in the natural environment on uneven terrain, with variable sunlight and wind. This is a challenge for most robot sensors, but important in a real disaster situation.

3 – The teams are allowed to use up to five robots which can be either ground or aerial robots. More robots makes it easier to find survivors, but increases complexity of programming the communication and coordination of the search.

A speedy six-wheeled search robot that uses an Android phone as its processor. 

Rescue Robotics Workshop

At a recent Rescue Robotics Workshop teachers from across Orange County learned to build and program ground robots that use an Android phone as the processor and sensor system. They also learned how to build a quadcopter with an Arduino processor to search from the air.

The quadcopter is a small and reliable aerial search robot. 
Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 11.00.57 AMClose-up on Arduino microprocessor apparatus on aerial robot. 

Rescue Robotics is a project based learning program which is an extension of the Performance Engineering Program in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering at UCI, in which UCI students learn racecar engineering, build a racecar, and put it in competition against other schools.  The goal of both these classes is for students to learn engineering project skills and either take them to college or directly to industry.

Just like in UCI’s Racecar Engineering class, students create a useful product, which is just another goal of this educational program.  The crucial difference between the two classes is that Rescue Robotics is focused on information and communication technology rather than engineering and manufacturing.  Clearly the class involves engineering and manufacturing, but the spotlight is really on finding an effective and interesting way to teach students computer programming skills with real world application.  An overarching goal of this program is to strengthen industry in Orange County by enrolling 17,000 Orange County students in healthcare, engineering, and information technology career paths by 2017-18.

Freshman Project: Quadcopters

The Rescue Robotics program has strong connections to the UCI Freshman Project course Engr 7, where Learning by doing in a competitive team environment has been proven to be an engaging, exciting, and effective way to teach engineering to students.  Classes like this open up career and educational paths for students starting from a young age.

UCI’s freshman project class, Engineering 7, organized by Lily Wu, has over 200 new students building quadcopters.  The two videos below show some of their work.

Read more
More about Rescue Robotics can be found at the Design News Blog.