Feed the Provost

In this robotics challenge, the students of Introduction to Robotics and Mechatronics (ME84) were tasked to cook lunch for the Provost, David Harris. The only defined rules were:

  • No human interaction with the process after it started. (Although we all know what happens when you build something for the first time.)
  • The students had to use LabView and a National Instruments MyRio to control the robot and communicate with other robots.
  • There must be a robot that delivered the food to the Provost.
  • The provost should be able to select his lunch from some kind of menu. And the goal was that Provost Harris would be fed and not maimed by any of the robots.

The students were to break up into teams, select a menu item, or task, and then design and build a robot that would prepare that item. Groups of three-to-four were formed and the list of menu items was generated. Each team built a robot that would either cook a particular menu item or perform a service. The robots were: taco-bot, chocolate-fondue-bot, panini-sandwich-bot, cookie-bot, salad-bot, french-fry-bot, sauce-and-dressing-bot and spice-bot. There was also a group for each essential service: the iPad menu (user font-end), set-the-mood-bot, Baxter-the-after-dinner-mint-delivery-bot, and a robot designed to pick up and deliver the food.

The robot whose task was delivering the food to the hungry Provost, was also in charge of organizing the communications. The food preparation robots received a signal from the iPad menu and started cooking. When they were ready the food was dispensed onto a tray and a signal was sent to the delivery robot, which stored that item in its delivery queue. The robot swooped in from an over-head gantry, picked up the tray and brought it to the waiting Provost. Provost Harris was then able to select which sauce or spice he wanted on his food, which was provided by two robots in close proximity to where he was sitting. And, while he waited he was entertained by the mood-bot group with automatic candle light, music, and a dancing Nao robot.

The project was a success! The robot system met all of the aforementioned goals, albeit some of the robots needed a little assistance from the “Hand of God.” Provost Harris sampled all of the menu choices and left satisfied and alive. And, all of the students learned something about designing and producing a robot on a short time schedule with an absolute deadline.