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Mechatronics

Mechatronics Classes

The Mechatronics class introduces students to the complex and rapidly evolving field of mechatronics, the study of the intersection of mechanical technologies and electronics. These technologies form the basis for robotics, autonomy, linear and nonlinear control, and automation.  The two semester sequence covers topics a wide range of subjects based around the integration of microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators in mechanical systems.  Each of the major topics of the course includes hands-on lab experiences to use the material covered. The first semester class culminates in a competition using Micromouse robots to navigate a race track with obstacles. The second semester of the course also includes an applied design project that allows the students to apply the concepts current engineering challenges. Below is a video of the Micromouse competition from 2010.

Micromouse Competition 2010 - First Place Robot

Length: 00:26

 

 

Projects

The Mechatronics II class is heavily project focused and attempts to get students involved in designing and innovating mechatronic systems with research and industry partners. This year, Kollmorgen is providing industry projects along with several research groups on campus. The projects that are currently underway are below.

Advisor: Kollmorgen

Sponsors: Kollmorgen

Description: An electrically insulating powder coating needs to be applied via fluidized bed to rotor and stator cores as insulation for the motor windings.This is currently a very manual process that involves two different heating stages, as well as dipping the part into the fluidized bed and using compressed air to clear excess powder off of the part. Automating all steps of this process would be ideal, where the operator would place the part in the machine, and the part would emerge with a fully cured powder coat.

Advisor: Kollmorgen

Sponsors: Kollmorgen

Description: A machine used to wind coils of wire around motor cores currently operates using an outdated control system and results in poor part quality. An upgrade to all control systems on this machine is needed and involves replacing the controller with a modern one, adding additional feedback sensors to improve the machine accuracy, and improving the human-machine interface for the operator.

Advisor: Kollmorgen

Sponsors: Kollmorgen

Description: Custom motor designs require custom insulation parts. These parts are typically a nomex, mylar or polyamide material depending on the usage case. For each custom motor, a different shape and thickness of insulation is needed. A CNC insulation cutter would need to be designed that can cut custom insulation pieces from all of the listed materials from a .dxf CAD file.

Advisor: Dr. Wicks and Dr. Williams

Sponsors: Virginia Tech

Description: This project is focused on the full system design of a vehicle that can be 3D printed for remote operation. This has applications in military, law enforcement and search and rescue oprations. The vehicle could be altered to support multiple terrain types with every build and will include a standard set of electronics, chosen and designed by the project team.

Advisor: Dr. Wicks and Dr. Williams

Sponsors: Virginia Tech

Description: This project is the design of a vision based feedback system that can interface with a 3D printer. The system would be able to inform the user if the print begins to fail, as well as track the print's shape and compare to the CAD model it is based on.

Advisor: Dr. Wicks

Sponsors: Virginia Tech

Description: Wireless synchronous instrumentation is an important concept when attempting to combine the results of different sensors to understand a system. Particularly in medical applications, these sensors must be small and unobtrusive enough to not impede the natural motion of the patient. This project focuses on the design of such a sensor package.

Advisor: Dr. Wicks

Sponsors: Virginia Tech

Description: Mechatronics I and II use small mobile platforms for testing autonomy and mobile sensing systems, as well as teaching concepts of mobile robotics. The current system is no longer viable for the class, and a project to replace them with a more full-functioned system is underway this semester. The new platforms will be more rugged, have more embedded sensing and will still be simple enough for new students to interface with.

Outreach

CEED

Some of our students involved themselves with the Center for Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED).  We met with kids of younger age groups consisting of middle school students, to increase their awareness of the importance of engineering in our lives and our community.  

    The Mechatronics Lab Outreach Event

There were two workshops in which we discussed how science and technology is used in our lives to help people.  They were asked to “Dream Big,” and come up with ideas that could be used in the future to improve our lives, teaching them what we have now is not the limit to what is possible.  To promote Virginia Tech’s mindset of “Hands-On, Minds-On” they were given a challenge build a “landing pad” for medical supplies.  They tried to accomplish this task using paper, tape, and string to create a structure that would allow a water balloon (the medical supplies) to land without breaking. 

    Mechatronics Lab School Outreach

Lastly we gave them a tour of the Mechatronics Lab, and let them ask any questions they had, to show that they too could become engineers and work in real environments to solve the problems of the future.

PMDI

There has been an event every year for several years with the Carilion School of Medicine, in which the Mechatronics Lab demonstrates our current projects, future projects, and new ideas we have being developed.  There is a major focus on how interdisciplinary collaboration is paramount for the enhancement of past, present, and future engineering technologies.

    PMDI at a Conference

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