Tinkering With Robots: Here’s What Our Professor Created

An electrical engineering professor at Habib University has developed a way to tele-operate Finch robots

KARACHI: Dr. Oliver Faust, associate professor of electrical engineering at Habib University, has been spending some quality time with a Finch – an educational robot that encourages students to be creative in writing code. He has successfully created a teleoperator application which can be used to move the robot around using a standard Android smartphone.

Dr. Faust’s work is an example of systems engineering – which involves taking various components to create a system that can work in a natural environment. This project, for example, involved taking a robot, a smartphone and a Raspberry Pi computer, and making them all work together in order to tele-operate (or remotely operate) the robot. The white, fish-shaped object in the photograph is the Finch robot, which is connected to the green circuit board with lots of wires (the Raspberry Pi computer). You can also see the tele-operator app open in the smartphone, displaying a camera feed on the left and a joystick on the right. The joystick can be used to move the Finch around, while the camera, once mounted, will provide a view of where it is going.

The Raspberry Pi serves as the command and control center, linking the smartphone wirelessly to the robot. The user interface was intentionally created on an Android-based device, as Android is the only mobile OS that supports Robot OS (ROS), a commonly used middleware for robots which was also used in this case. “The most creative task, during the system design, was to translate the commands from the teleoperator application into wheel movements of the Finch robot,” Dr. Faust writes in an accompanying paper.

Encouraged by his work, Dr. Faust is currently involved in a student project that seeks to recreate a more refined version of the Finch. The project is in advanced stages of completion, and Habib University’s School of Science & Engineering (SSE) is very eager to see the results. We will be sharing a profile of the students involved and the project itself as soon as it’s complete.

Stay tuned!


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