May 25th, 2019
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October 21, 2010. Billie Moreland, PhD, of Billie Moreland and Associates and Steve Simmons, PhD, E...

Triangle %u201CGraduates%u201D at Sweet Sixteen
The Idea (1994)
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06/28/2002 - Mead High School Robot Takes The Terabyte Cake

A Scorbot ER4 robot will cut the Terabyte Triangle’s 5th Anniversary Cake this coming October at the BizTech Expo. Although the robot looks more like a miniature construction crane than R2D2 or C3PO, what the machine lacks in humanoid charm is more than made up for by the enthusiasm of the robot’s ‘mission control group’. Mission control consists of a small group of Mead High School students working with Mead teacher Kirk Jameson, and a small number of EWU computer science students working with EWU professor Steve Simmons. According to Simmons “This is a fun project because it is entertaining, educational, and a challenge in integrated digital systems design all at the same time.”

The project is based in the Technology Education Center at Mead High School, which, states Jameson, is the most advanced high school technology lab in the region. It includes state of the art equipment for such new high tech areas as laser applications, numerically controlled machining, advanced flight simulation and training, and robotics.

The educational robotics program in the Mead H.S. lab is based on the small Scorbot robot, controlled by a desktop computer and a special software package --- including a scripting-type programming language used by the Mead students to activate and ‘teach’ the robot to do various jobs. The challenge in the project arises from the fact that today’s robots are still far, far away from having abilities like humans, even when it comes to a simple everyday task like cutting a cake. In this case, the problem is compounded because the crane-like Scorbot ER4 is a fixed position robot with only one jointed arm. The Mead technology students were not daunted --- they elected to increase the project’s ambitions to not only cut, but actually serve the cake too, all by robotic programming.

To attack the cake manipulation problem, the students and teachers have started to design an integrated, many part, digital system. This system now includes a special cake table (Mead Woodshop); a carefully engineered multi-layer cake (a private cake company); two special cutting and serving tools (Mead Metal Shop); a prototype program to control the robot’s motions, and a computer controlled electronic ‘Lazy Susan’ device that rotates the cake as required --- and it is still early in the summer!

Simmons asserts: “I am going to use this project as a characteristic example of integrated digital systems design in a graduate level systems design class this fall. Even though it is small in scale, it shares many of the project integration risks that made the Denver Airport Luggage Handling System into a systems engineering nightmare.” There will be no hiding the robot project results. The cake cutting will take place at noon October 15th in the Convention Center, surrounded by a large audience of participants in the BizTech Expo, regional students, faculty, and Spokane civic dignitaries.

Billie Moreland
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