CS 1951C, Designing Humanity Centered Robots, Spring 2014

Brown University
Fall 2014
Michael L. Littman (mlittman@cs.brown.edu, CIT 301).
Ian Gonsher (Ian_Gonsher@brown.edu). See also: steamstudio.us and browncreativemind.com.
Course development TA: Andrew Harpin (andrew_harpin@brown.edu).

Time: Tue/Thu 9am-10:20am
Place: CIT Center (Thomas Watson CIT) 345
Semester: Fall 2014

Office hours: By appointment.

Description: This is a new course offered by Brown's Computer Science department under the auspices of the Humanity Centered Robotics Initiative. It is focused on the iterative design process and how it can be used to develop robots for solving tasks that help people. It will expose students to a suite of fabrication and prototyping technologies sufficient for creating a functioning robotic system.

The course has two tracks, one intended for CS concentrators, and one intended for non-concentrators with previous design experience. The non-concentrator track cannot be used toward fulfilling a Computer Science concentration requirement.

Prerequisites: Permission of an instructor.

We will be studying, designing, and creating telepresence robots for use in the context of helping the elderly live more independently.

Planned Schedule
Date (Place)
In Class
Thu 9/4 (CIT 345) Introduction. Each student test-drives an existing telepresence robot to understand its capacity and limitations. Students will test the following telepresence robots: VGo, Beam, and, a Roomba-based kit. Collect contact information. Get your paragraphs in.
Tue 9/9 (BDW) Context. Students continue to explore robot-mediated human-to-human interaction. In-class assignment: Ideation exercise. We will begin in a group with a big roll of paper and sharpies, identifying areas of telepresence we want to explore. Then, we break into groups of 3-4 to refine some of the better ideas. Set up tumblr blog.
Thu 9/11 (CIT 345) Sketches. Develop an idea from last week in a small group. Begin creating a small 3-d model and scenario to motivate your design. Meet outside of class to refine the idea further, prepare a short presentation for next Thursday's class.
Tue 9/16 (CIT 345) Field Trip. We will travel to St. Elizabeth's nursing and rehab center in East Greenwich. Students will observe telepresence robots in a real-world environment to understand their shortcomings and identify areas of improvement. Brainstorm about "Better World By Design".
Thu 9/18 (CIT 345) Stories. Share your 3-d model and scenario for feedback. Iterate the design.
Tue 9/23 (BDW) Laser cutters. Ian will run a tutorial in the Brown Design Workshop. (Michael is away.)
Thu 9/25 (Rosh Hashana) Industrial design. In-class presentation from Prof. Michael Lye.
Tue 9/30 Quarter scale. Read last week's stories out loud. Now, pairs create a quarter-scale sketch model of an improved telepresence robot that utilizes one additional feature to enhance human interaction. Complete models.
Thu 10/2 Building up. Group review of quarter-scale sketch models. After the review, we will combine groups with similar themes and interest to form groups of 4 students in total. Each of these newly formed groups will meet up with instructors individually to identify one consistent group concept. After identifying the group concept, create a full-scale cardboard mock-up that highlights the new feature(s) of your telepresence robot without neglecting proportions.
Tue 10/7 Cardboard. Continue to work on cardboard prototypes. Learn some mock-up techniques. Complete prototype.
Thu 10/9 (BDW) Kits. Group review of full-scale cardboard mock-ups. Switching modes to introduction of robot kit consisting of a base on wheels and a laptop. This kit will act as the foundation for building up to the final prototype. We will work together in class to create a rough mockup for how to mount the computer on the robot base using materials such as cardboard, chipboard, and foamcore. Complete the first iteration robot, dealing with the constraints of the Roomba and the computer.
Tue 10/14 (BDW) Body. The goal for this week is to create a version of the robot from last time using refined materials (plastic, metal, wood). Complete the second iteration robot.
Thu 10/16 (BDW) Refinement. Feedback on 2nd iteration robots. Hone second iteration robot based on feedback.
Tue 10/21 Servos. Learning about motors, servos, microphones, Arduinos. This introduction will help students to understand how to control mechanical functions remotely via Arduino. We will work on creating a simple mechanical function to add to your telepresence robot. The custom-made mechanical components needed for this assignment can be made out of very basic materials such foam core and straight pins. At this point, do not focus on aesthetics or machined precision. Complete servo project.
Thu 10/23 Control. We will augment the telepresence software to allow remote control of the servo. Experiment with interface.
Tue 10/28 Project. We will review the servo controls created by each group. At this point, we transition to the design and creation of the final projects. Individual desktop reviews with each group. (Michael away.) Design sketches, concepts.
Thu 10/30 Maker bot. Introduction of MakerBot desktop rapid prototype machine. Individual desktop reviews with each group. Small scale mockup.
Tue 11/4 Progress review. Presentations of (1) Full-scale cardboard/foam core mock-up that houses the provided kit with functioning motor(s) and servo(s), (2) Drawing/collage that places your telepresence robot in a specific environment, (3) Your motor/servo assignment, (4) Additional support material as sketches and drawings are optional.
Thu 11/6 Progress review. Complete reviews/feedback/discussion. Rebuild and refine full-scale cardboard/foam core mock-up according to progress review feedback.
Tue 11/11 Construction. Final construction of your final prototype starts. Individual desktop reviews with each group to discuss construction process.
Thu 11/13 Work.
Tue 11/18 Work. Individual desktop reviews with each group.
Thu 11/20 Work.
Tue 11/25 Work. Individual desktop reviews with each group.
Thu 11/27 (Thanksgiving) Greetings. Maybe some people can stop in on each other's celebrations via robot.
Tue 12/2 Final crit. Presentation material includes: (1) Final prototype. (2) Drawing/collage that places your telepresence robot in a specific environment, (2) Additional support material as sketches, drawings, and mock-ups are optional.
Thu 12/4 Final crit.
Tue 12/9 Wrap-up review. Presentation of refined prototype that incorporates feedback of final crit.
Thu 12/11 Discussion. What impact could our designs have? How could we know? What are the next steps to making them a reality?