Monthly Archives: August 2008

A New Group of Tennessee Students Learn about Space Robotics

Patrick McCartney, a robotics simulation engineer at METECS, spoke to a group of high
school students at Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Tennessee last week. Mr.
McCartney spoke at Cleveland High School last fall and was invited to come speak again
to a new group of students who will be studying biomedical engineering as part of
“Project Lead the Way”.

Patrick talked about the history of the US space program, provided some examples of
how technology developed at NASA has been applied in the medical field, and then
transitioned into how robotic manipulators are currently being used to assemble the
International Space Station. He also presented detailed information about work he
recently performed preparing a high-fidelity simulation to analyze a robotic operation on
the Space Station and another application that is being used to develop a rescue scenario
for the upcoming Hubble Space Telescope maintenance mission.

It was clear from the numerous questions that the students were very interested in the
material being presented. Patrick would like to thank everyone who came and also for
being very respectful and attentive during the event. Patrick would also like to thank
teacher Erin Hattabaugh for the opportunity to share about his work at METECS and with
NASA.

Special thanks to our 2008 interns!

Our summer interns of 2008 - Burton Chen, Gage Eads and Drake Deno.METECS is very grateful to have had three wonderful interns with us this summer. Not
only were they a great addition to our team this summer, they also accomplished a great
deal!

Burton Chen came to METECS from the University of Texas and worked on implementing
a Coulomb friction model into NASA’s robotics simulation. The friction model uses an
iterative numerical procedure proposed by Y.M. Kao, Y. Yang, and L. Nguyen. Burton was
able to complete the implementation and show that the method successfully eliminated
certain noise and unwanted behavior in the joint rates, improving our robotics simulation
fidelity.

Gage Eads is also from the University of Texas. Gage worked on simulation code that
models line-plane contact. This model uses collision detection to verify an intersection
between a line and a plane, and then computes the necessary forces and moment about
the two interacting objects to realistically simulate contact. Using this software, complex
simulations using points, lines and planes are able to model intricate robotic interactions
that occur on the Space Station.

Drake Deno returned this summer from Purdue University for his third internship with
Metecs. Drake continued development on a contact modeling tool that he had worked on
in previous internships. This tool allows users to define contact geometries and surface
properties graphically. It then exports this data into a contact simulation which will
adequately generate forces and torques generates by contact of the interfaces. Drake’s
tool was quickly put to use to generate a model used to help the astronauts train a
robotics operation where a sensitive payload on the International Space Station will be
inserted and extracted from a Japanese vehicle.

All in all, the interns did some amazing work! We hope they enjoyed their time here as
much as we did, and we hope the experience, knowledge, and contacts they acquired will
be useful to them in the future.

Good luck Burton, Drake, and Gage in your studies and your future endeavors. We hope
to hear from you soon.