Friday, August 25, 2006

Chris Rogers – From Lego Bricks to Pico Crickets

I had a chance to catch up with Chris Rogers of Tufts University, who led the development of Robolab software which uses a simplified version of LabVIEW. He’s now working on with LEGO, National Instruments, Carnegie Mellon University, and Vernier Software on a high school version of Lego Mindstorms LabVIEW. It will be differentiated from the NXT software in that it won’t have drivers for the NXT blocks. It’ll be cross-platform as well. They are considering adding the NI controls and simulation package to it. “You can do a lot of cool control stuff with NXT on it,” said Chris.

Chris recently moved to Switzerland to work at ETH on sub-micron robots as part of his sabbatical. The robot propels sub-100 micron devices using magnetic fields. They make a sensor platform for measuring temperature and pressure. One application for it is to measure the inside the eye. Chris is working with Brad Nelson at ETH-Zürich on this project. Brad Nelson focuses his research on microrobotics, biomicrorobotics, and nanorobotics in a program entitled IRIS which marries robotics with the emerging field of MEMS. IRIS sets the goal to develop the tools and processes required to fabricate and assemble micron sized robots.

Playful Invention a Montreal-based company makes the Pico Crickets. It is designed for making artistic creations with lights, sound, music, and motion. Crickets were originally developed at MIT’s Media Lab. There’s a version for industrial applications here. Crossbow makes the Cricket Mote Research Platform which is a joint development between Crossbow and MIT. It is based on the MCS410CA.

Crickets arose from Mitchel Resnick’s research in RCX which is the technology underlying Lego’s Mindstorms. They are limited in capability but are very small in size. Chris is currently writing LabVIEW drivers for Crickets by using Robolab technology. Applications for crickets appeal more to non-standard robotics users. By integrating with Lego tools, the kids can make crafts which can react to their environment.

Chris is also working in the biotech field. His students use LabVIEW to track the motion of different genetic lines of flies by isolating genes for fly locomotion issues. The machine tracks 24 flies at a time.

If you would like to contact Chris directly, you can do so through his website.

Best Regards,
Hall T.