For this Computer Science Honours project, three students will be working as a team to produce parts of the software system for a robot developed and constructed by the Robotics and Agents lab in the Mechanical Engineering department of the University of Cape Town. The focus of this project will be to create modular software components that can be re-used and improved upon in future years by the robotics team. The parts to be created by each student will cover three important components of the final system. These parts can be developed independently, although there is interdependency between them for the final product. The parts to be developed are:
- Robot graphical user interface (Zwivhuya Tshitovha)
- Robot control interface (Jaco Colyn)
- Robot visual system (Jonathan Dowling)
The deliverables required for this project are:
- A visual system for the robot to be able to pass the “rolling E’s” test
- Hazardous material signs detection
- Easy to use interface for controlling the robot via a game console controller
- Intelligent graphical user interface that highlights only important information to the operator
Social impact and importance of research
Rescue robots are a very valuable avenue of research from the societal perspective. Disaster relief workers risk their lives in order to save the lives of disaster victims. These individuals have a very dangerous job and the largest danger arises from having to go into many situations blind, with limited knowledge of the hazards and risks that have emerged. In addition, there is often no longer a reliable map of the disaster area and so the relief workers have to piece together a mental map on-the-fly. In some situations the disaster area completely prohibits sending relief works, as in nuclear reactor meltdowns.
This situation is ideal for robots that can automatically map their surroundings and locate victims. Robots can even be fitted to furnish victims with supplies and communication with the outside. The robots thus lay the groundwork for a more efficient and effective rescue operation with a reduced risk to the lives of rescue workers.
Robots not only provide valuable intelligence about the disaster area but can also be fitted to perform repairs and many other important tasks in situations such as the Three Mile Island and recent Japanese nuclear disasters.