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     Volume 1 Issue 7| September 17, 2006 |


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Robotics Revolution in IUT

Azman Arefeen

ROBOTIC technologies and artificial intelligence have overwhelmed and enchanted people over the years; more so often opening the doors to unlimited fantasies. Artificial intelligence integrated robotic structures like 'PATHFINDER' - which explored the Mars, 'ASIMO', 'AIBO' and many more are taking science to new dimensions.

Though in smaller levels some related works are also in progress in Bangladesh. In this respect, students of Islamic University of Technology (IUT) have come up with Microcontroller Operated Robot using Photo sEnsor GUiding System (MORPHEUS). The readers might know about what Microcontroller is. Microcontroller is a compact microcomputer in a single chip but without any keyboard and monitors. If suitably connected to a device, this can control the device as per some instructions. Morpheus is a successful implementation of microcontrollers showing that it is possible to construct a useful device without relatively complex programming with computers.

The creators of MORPHEUS

It all started as a final year project for Numair Md. Fadlullah, A.S.M. Shihabuddin, Sk. Javed Al- Nahiyan, graduating students of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, IUT. “While working with microcontrollers as part of our industrial training program in Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), the power of this small chip surprised us all; just write valid instructions and it can drive motors, switch on and off electric circuits in a routine time and many more. That's when I asked Shihab to do something new with microcontrollers for our fourth year project, that's how we came up with MORPHEUS; later Javed joined us”, says Numair.

The beginning was not that easy. MORPHEUS was not even their first target for the fourth year project. They started working with digital clocks and traffic signal systems using microcontrollers. Soon they realized that this microcontroller (PIC16F84A) possesses even more power to do more complex works; the idea MORPHEUS was thus born.

First of all, they developed the obstacle detection system of the robot. This system is like the 'eye' of the robot. If the robot 'sees' any obstruction coming towards it, then the obstruction detection system will send a signal to the brain “collision alert! collision alert!” and then the 'brain' microcontroller steers the robot so that the obstruction is avoided. Again, if you wish that you want to control the movements of the robot, you can do that using the remote control system. Using the remote control system you can steer the robot to any direction you like. MORPHEUS is also equipped with a mechanical arm, which enables the robot to pick up objects as desired by the human operator. Then they finished the automated headlight system. This system 'senses' the intensity of light around the environment and turns on/off the headlight of the robot automatically whenever necessary.

MORPHEUS is designed to be an exploration robot.I am not saying that it is going directly to the moon or mars to explore there; but it can be used to explore underwater in search of ship wreckage (which is a very common incident nowadays in our country) or to smoky places, such as a building caught on fire.


MORPHEUS, with all its circuit boards

If a video transmission system is installed on the robot, it can send video feeds to the operator to locate the position of the ship wreckage or the location of a human trapped in a burning building. The different systems developed can also be used separately. The obstacle detection system, if installed in a car can warn the driver if there is any nearby obstruction (like a rickshaw) and can help novice drivers to park in narrow park spaces. This system is already installed in cars like Mercedes and BMW. The remote control system developed using microcontroller is totally unique in our country. This microcontroller based remote control system is more reliable than conventional remote systems and using this system it is possible to generate 4096 different commands using only one microcontroller! And this system can also be used to control any electronic devices including the lights/fans of a room. The mechanical arm designed by them is not very robust, and can pick up only small objects but the same design can be used to construct larger mechanical arm that can be used in industries and pharmaceutical companies for automation. The automated headlight system can be used in street lights, so that they automatically turn off at dawn and turn on at dusk, thus can save power.

Project: MORPHEUS was a very creative and challenging work for the team. “We are very much thankful to those who helped us even a bit for the project, special thanks goes to Mr. Mahbubul Haq, Principal scientific officer, BAEC and Prof. Dr. Kazi Khairul Islam, Head, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, IUT, who supervised over the project. We also thank Mr. Fateh-ul Amin, Mr. Masud (electrical workshop, IUT) and Mr. Patowari (mechanical workshop, IUT).”- said Shihab. Numair says “Robotics related projects are beginning to flourish in different universities of our country. Almost every week, you shall see news about students doing robotics projects. But unfortunately there is no communication between the students working with robotics and they cannot share their knowledge and work for our country. For that reason we have started the first online robotics related community in Bangladesh, called 'Roboticsbangla' where we can pool and share our knowledge about robotics. If you have worked with robotics or are interested to work with robotics you are most welcome to join the group. The address for the group is http://groups.yahoo.com/group/roboticsbangla/”.

The team feels that they have at least stepped into the large world of robotics and artificial intelligence. Who knows teams like these may one day, send exploration robots to outer space and more, and bring glory to Bangladesh.

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