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software engineering, Creation and Simulation, Behind the bits

6 Min Read

Programming a Social Robot to Help Around Campus

Innovation is key at UAT—staff, faculty and students are always looking to create something. The University bought the Segway Loomo platform for Advancing Computer Science and Robotics and Embedded Systems students to program it. Enter Brandon Michelsen.


UAT authored the Loomo project to Brandon and fellow classmates, Ke’Ondrae Mell and Garren Koller. The end purpose for the Loomo is to be a transport vehicle for events, specifically Perimeter83 to deliver items to event attendees. In addition to pulling a cart, other utilization methods are in the works, including autonomous navigation (the Loomo will follow set paths) and follow mode (the Loomo follows a person around).


In addition to orchestrating the project, Brandon has also worked on the follow mode and autonomous navigation part of the project. Ke’Ondrae worked on the communication functionality between the Loomo and cart, while Garren headed up the mechanical portion of the project.


So far, the team developed an Android application that provides a camera feed for navigation. The robot is able to navigate itself by recognizing a person and following them.


To attach the cart to the Loomo, the team create a 3D-printed one-piece hitch with attachment points on both ends. If the Loomo happens to bump into anything, the hitch itself rotates so that the card doesn’t detach or break the hitch. Additionally, electrical communication elements are needed for brake lights.


This project can be categorized as social robotics, which are autonomous robots that communicate and interact with humans by learning social behaviors and following rules accompanying its role. Many elements of the Loomo were premade for social robotics. The Loomo has different programmable voices, sounds and facial expressions—all with the purpose of helping people feel more comfortable around it.


One of Brandon’s priorities is to make the Loomo more interactive with people. The Loomo has a directional microphone in place to pick up directional sounds relevant to itself. This means the Loomo has the potential to recognize voices and determine where people are. “So, you could be standing off in the corner of a room and you can call for it to come to you using your voice and it will pick that out, turn towards you, and then move towards you,” explains Brandon, “I think that would be kind of a neat aspect for the social robotics point of the project, and I think it would be something interesting to work on.”


Robotic technology is a part of Brandon’s present and future. After he leaves UAT, Brandon would like to educate the next generation of technology innovators or join the modern space race. “I’m really interested in education, particularly bringing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education to rural areas, because I grew up on a farm and we didn’t really have much in the way of STEAM,” says Brandon. “Being able to come here and learn more about technology and engineering, and those fields—I find it really cool and I’d like to bring more opportunities to younger students in the rural areas.”


Interested in more student-based projects? Read our last issue of Behind the Bits!



Brandon Michelsen, Robotics and Embedded Systems, AS Advancing Computer Science, AS Artificial Intelligence

Garren Koller, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Maker and Fabrication

Ke’Ondrae Mell, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Maker and Fabrication

Topics:   software engineering, Creation and Simulation, Behind the bits


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