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Overview of CS4985: Special Topics in Combat Robotics (Fall 2012)


If you made it here, I'm assuming you're interested in taking this course during Fall 2012.  This page is just a quick overview of my thoughts for the course (subject to change, of course).

The real goal of this course is not to teach you about fighting robots.  That just happens to be a useful and (hopefully) interesting way to explore the intersection of computing, mechanics, electronics, and fabrication.  In your career, you probably won't be building robots -- but you might find yourself part of a product design team that includes mechanical and electrical engineers, machinists (i.e., precision metal-workers), visual and graphic artists, etc.  The kind of team where everyone needs to know a little about what the others do.  This course will hopefully give you some insight into that.

One big aspect of this course is gaining familiarity with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines.  CNC machines are robots that build things based on your designs.  At the simplest, you design a part on computer and then the CNC machine churns it out.  In the lab, we have a small metal-working mill and two 3D printers that use CNC technology.  Even though they are small hobby-grade devices, the same principles apply to the larger commercial-scale machines.  There are employers who need people with this kind of experience!


Technically there are no formal course objectives as this is a Special Topics course.  But here are some targets for which we are aiming:

  • Understand safety issues regarding all tools
  • Design a robot and its component parts using Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD)
  • Refine a CAD design in preparation for Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)
  • Produce a part using a CNC device (metal mill and/or 3D printer)
  • Explore design trade-offs, including:
    • weight vs. protection
    • speed vs. torque
    • weapon vs. armor
  • Develop custom control software, including both human-control and, possibly, (semi-)autonomous control.
At the end of the course, you and your team will have constructed a combat robot in the "Beetleweight" 3-pound weight class.  All the teams in the course will participate in a bracket tournament here on campus, open to spectators from the UWG community.  You will also have an opportunity, if you wish, to participate in Robot Battles ( events in January 2013 and/or September 2013.