From a Trojan horse to a robot
The Manufacturing and Automation students have developed a six-foot-tall robot, outfitted with a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) navigation system.
“RFID is a technology that uses radio waves to automatically identify bulk or individual items,” explained robotics and automation instructor Craig Maynard. “The RFID reader communicates with the RFID tag via radio waves, essentially transforming a lifeless item into an object that is capable of communicating, making human intervention unnecessary.”
In 2008, Maynard was approached by Glen, the head of the RFID Application development lab (RAD Lab) at SAIT, who requested that automated systems engineering technology (ASNT) students build a robot with RFID technology.
“We accepted the challenge, and building the robot became one of our class projects,” said Maynard. “The robot was built over a number of semesters with four different student groups, presenting each group with unique challenges to overcome. The project integrates classroom learning in robotics with RFID technology, giving students added dimension in their education.”
The student project has lasted for three years.
Ben Reed, vice-president of The Western Canadian Robotics Society and SAIT RFID researcher, was hired by the RAD lab to help upgrade the device over the summer, along with Daniel Barrett, a lab technician in the SAIT Automated Systems Engineering Technology lab, and Thomas Cruickshank, a second-year mechanical engineering technology student.
“The robot has sensors that allow it to move around freely without bumping into anything, has the ability to rise over crowds and look around the room with its scissor jack, and can maneuver up small inclines,” says Reed.
According to Reed, the robot has already been taken out and tested multiple times to make sure that it functions properly.
In April the robot was taken to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo and tested out, and more recently, on Sept. 9 it was on Breakfast Television.
“We also took the robot out to the Calgary East Village Spirit Hub in May, a marathon for charity, and had it act like a cheerleader for the runners. We had it spinning around and waving its arms, everyone really loved it,” said Reed.
In the next few weeks there will be a naming contest for the robot on the SAIT Facebook page.
“We will pick the best names from the Facebook contest and then have people vote for their favourite name during the SAIT open house on Oct. 19 and 20,” said Reed. “The robot will also be on display during the open house.”
The ASNT students are hoping to have the robot completely finished by the end of this year.
“Hopefully, when we’ve finished building it, the robot will be more aesthetically pleasing. We could dress it up like a Trojan soldier and have it cheer for the SAIT Trojans,” said Reed. “Maybe it’s time for the Trojans to have a new mascot.”