Monday, August 7, 2017

2017-08-03: Ai Intern Derek Goddeau Brings Robot Arm To Life

It's one of the only robots in the Autonomy Incubator that doesn't roll or fly, but it's still just as fun to watch: it's the robotic arm we received from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and Derek Goddeau is in charge of making it move.

"Right now, it does all the path planning on its own, so I can just tell it 'move to xyz' and it does it without me giving it instructions step by step," he explained.

In the video, Derek has the arm generate random positions and move between them gracefully, without any part of the arm colliding with another part. Think of it like a very slow game of Snake. Once he and the arm work out how to do that reliably, it can start moving a little faster. Then, it can try performing tasks in real time.

"Eventually, it will be able to identify objects on its own and put them where they need to be," he said.

Derek comes to the Ai from the Computer Science department of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, where he's currently a senior. His interest in robots springs out of the time he spent serving in the Navy, where he worked as an avionics technician.

"I worked communication, navigation, and electronic warfare systems," he said. "I was in the Navy for six years, and then I left because I wanted to go to school."

Because of his career in the defense side of computer science, Derek enjoys concentrating on the security of network-connected devices that aren't computers in the traditional sense— a category that includes robots, like the ones in the Ai.

"I really like the security of weird things, like cell phones, and robots are one of those weird things. There aren't a lot of people doing that," he said.

In fact, Derek was part of a project at ODU last semester that allows people to detect when someone in the area is using a "Stingray", a device that mimics a cell phone tower and collects identifying information from all of the phones in its radius. If you're into cybersecurity, I'd highly recommend checking out the project's website here.

In the meantime, Derek's internship in the Ai has been a success, both for him and for the lab.

"I learned a whole lot about robotics, and Gazebo and ROS, definitely," he said.


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