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Within the last few years, there has been substantial growth of robotics in academia and in the hobby world. That makes it an exciting time to be in the robotics field. Researchers are using mobile robots to find solutions to carry out dangerous and dirty jobs. Jobs like the exploration of caves in a combat environment, waste clean up, and disaster relief. They are also exploring and fielding the use of autonomous robots for automobile driving, oceanographic exploration, agriculture, facility security, and piloting aircraft.
As the need to field autonomous robots grows, so does the need to educate and train future robotics engineers. Greater numbers of college students are introduced to robotics every year. Many colleges offer graduate degrees focusing on robotics and intelligent system development. Some are even offering undergraduate degrees in robotics. Students enrolled in electrical engineering and computer science undergraduate programs are using mobile robots to complete design projects. All of this use and growth of robotics has fueled a real need for mobile robots.
While each roboticists has a unique problem to solve and each ground mobile robot has a unique set of requirements, there is often a set of characteristics that many robots share. Those are...
As the requirements for the project and robot change over time one doesn't want to have to change the hardware. It would be better to build into the robot a certain amount of flexibility to add sensors, actuators, and additional processing power. Therefore it is desirable to build a robot that allows for changes and additions. It is also strongly desirable for the mobile robot to be easy to use with ubiquitous serial interfaces for micro code uploads and debugging. A widely available energy source such as AA or AAA batteries is also desirable to reduce the situation where one finds themselves unable power up the robot because they can't re-energize their batteries or buy fresh ones!
The focus on this development project is the creation of a autonomous mobile robot that has applications in research, education, and in the hobby world. Can a mobile robot be developed that is feature rich, includes interfaces for customization, be reliable, affordable, and easy to use?
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