It doesn't have a brain or a heart, and its walk is a little like the scarecrow's. But a little, headless, armless, trunkless, two-legged robot developed at Cornell University can walk, wobble, hobble, limp, stride, and stagger--even though it can't stand still without falling over. Made of plastic Tinkertoy parts and a few odds and ends, the robot remains stable while in motion, giving mechanical engineers new insights about how humans walk. Michael J. Coleman, a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Cornell, says the little worker, by using gravity on a gentle slope, "performs repeatable, chattering, human-like steps without falling over." Coleman stumbled on the walker's design while preparing for his doctoral defense. "It is one of the few devices of any kind that is dynamically stable near a statically unstable configuration and doesn't have fast spinning parts," says Andy Ruina, director of the Human Power, Biomechanics and Robotics Laboratory at Cornell, who assisted Coleman. The Tinkertoy device consists of two green rod legs bottomed with rounded yellow feet into a red crossbar hip, along with several orange washers and green hinges. To stabilize the toy, Ruina added low-lying red and yellow outriggers weighted with steel nuts off each foot to lower the centers of mass. He further fine-tuned the toy by rounding out the flat spots of the Tinkertoy wheels with flexible brass strips. Soon, the hand-sized gadget was tottering down a gentle slope, tilting from side to side, but steadily walking on and on and on. E-mail SSL4@cornell.edu or.
Wal-Mart will hold its second Made in the USA Open Call July 7-8, at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. The event will be a repeat effort by the world’s biggest seller of consumer goods to increase the amount of US-made products it sells in Wal-Mart stores, in Sam’s Club members-only wholesale outlets, and on walmart.com.
This year, Design News is getting a head start on the Fourth of July celebration. In honor of our country and its legacy of engineering innovation -- in all of its forms -- we are taking you on an alphabetical tour through all 50 states to showcase interesting engineering breakthroughs and historically significant events.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.