25 October 2011
AMHERST, Mass.–It’s often not difficult to get science and engineering students involved in some maker project, especially cars. When we hit the University of Pennsylvania in the early fall, the electric drag-racing team emphasized that their project was open to everyone.
Here at the University of Massachusets, in the M5 hacker space, the group threw open the tent wider. They got the theater students involved in a robotics project.
It’s one of three multi-semester, credited projects being run simultaneously, with up to 15 students allowed to work on each project, according to engineering professor T. Baird Soules.
The roles were divided conveniently: the theater students did the aesthetics and the engineering students did the hardware, software and mechanical design and construction, using an old electric wheelchair base as the starting point. The finished device was a platform that featured hydraulic lifters to move an element of the stage setting up and down and around. (My suggestion to ruggedize the design to transport elephants in the scene from Aida is under consideration).
“It’s really just a learning project for everybody,” said Matt Hunt, a sophomore engineering student who served as one of the project leads and continues to tweak the design.