Mechatronics engineering is a multidisciplinary field that combines mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and programming. It’s a perfect choice of study for our modern technological landscape, in which those three disciplines often overlap and interconnect. Robots are the perfect example of mechatronic design, and so students are often tasked with building robots in their classes. It was in one of those classes that Redditor L33tNeo and their teammates built this impressive “ship worker” robot.
In their Mechatronic Design class, L33tNeo and their teammates were given the choice between building either a window-washing robot or a ship worker robot. They chose the ship worker robot. The goal was to build a robot that could be given a “mission file” to follow. That file contains instructions about what it’s supposed to do on a ship. It’s capable of moving about the simulated ship and performing three types of actions: flipping switches, flipping paddle-style valves, and turning wheel-style valves.
To accomplish that, L33tNeo’s team built a rover robot equipped with an arm for manipulating the ship’s valves. It drives around on omni-directional wheels built by Vex Robotics, and is controlled by a Raspberry Pi. An Intel RealSense stereo vision camera is used to aid in navigation, and to locate the controls to be manipulated. The robot’s arm is built using motor joints from HEBI Robotics, which are controlled over Ethernet via UDP. L33tNeo says that there isn’t any feedback to tell the robot if a valve is fully opened or closed, or what state it’s in before being manipulated. But in the real world that functionality would be simple enough to implement.