Center for Distributed Robotics, University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota’s Center for Distributed Robotics (CDR) is one of the leading robotic labs in terms of robotic research today. It is recognized for its expertise in both hardware design and algorithms.
The chief objectives of this robotic lab are to design, build, and show distributed robotic systems made up of a large collection of medium-sized, small, and miniature robots connected by a wireless communication network that are able to accomplish their given objective.
It is also the lab’s goal to foster the understanding of computer science through the application of robots inside the classroom. Here, students are introduced to the “hands-on” approach related to robots and robot interaction with the world. This enables students to show ideas that may be difficult to understand at first, but upon accomplishing the task, many students are inspired to proceed with an engineering course.
The center focused on the creation of an inexpensive reconfigurable robot that is made up of physically separate units that can communicate through the use of a wireless communication network (mobile phone, internet, i.e.). These robots can then work autonomously but still cooperate to finish the tasks given.
At the CDR, the ultimate objective is that individual robots be able to unite forces to accomplish a given task in a huge and cost effective manner as compared to a single machine.
Among the robots that they have developed is the UMN Scout robot. Designed in collaboration with MTS, Honeywell, and ATC, this robot was designed to work alone or in collaboration with other Scout robots. It is a specialized machine that is capable of carrying out low-level missions.
The UMN Scout robot is equipped with basic sensory units with locomotion, tools and other devices. This 11cm long robot has a diameter of 4cm and its body snugly fits inside a protective covering that absorbs all impact. The robot is also capable of breaking through a glass window and still landing safely to start its objective.
And with more than one hundred robots in the laboratory, the Center for Distributed Robotics works very closely with the Computer Vision Lab in a concerted effort to create a cutting edge robotic application that uses sensors more effectively. The lab boasts of its alumni who now hold prominent positions in today’s industries and universities.