SMORES v2 is a modular robot developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Like version 1, each module has four degrees of freedom (pan, tilt, and left/right wheels). Each module has its own battery, and communicates with a central computer over 802.11 WiFi. The side wheels have rubber tires that allows each module to drive like a car on flat surfaces. Currently, we are in the process of constructing thirty SMORES v2 modules.

The modules can connect to one another using four electro-permanent (EP) magnets on each face. EP magnets consist of an electromagnet coil wrapped around two permanent magnets, and can be turned on and off by sending a pulse of current through the coil. Once activated, they sustain a holding force of 20 Newtons per magnet with no constant power consumption – they only require power when switching states. The magnets can also be used to connect to and manipulate metal objects.


UPenn Mechatronics – Robockey!

UPenn’s Mechatronics course, MEAM 410/510, was one of the most intense and rewarding courses of my academic career, and allowed me to create some pretty cool robots over the course of the semester.  Mechatronics is the synergistic integration of mechanics, electronics, control theory, and computer science to design and manufacture useful products.  It’s an inherently interdisciplinary field, and course instructor Jonathan Feine has done a great job in creating a highly engaging, project-based course with an emphasis on design.  The final project, Robockey, is showcased here.


Robockey was the epic capstone to MEAM 510 – a rough-and-tumble five-week project in which groups of three or four students build a team of three little robots that play hockey autonomously – no remote controls, no calling plays from the sidelines, nothing.

The Robots: Millard Killmore, Martin Van Bruisin, and Grover Cleaveland
The Robots: Millard Killmore, Martin Van Bruisin, and Grover Cleaveland
The Team: Jon Greco, Justin Starr, Joe Polin, Tarik Tosun
The Team: Jon Greco, Justin Starr, Joe Polin, Tarik Tosun

The project combines all the key elements of the course: mechanical design, electronics, programming, sleep deprivation, and overcaffeination.  My team, comprised of Joe Polin, Jon Greco, Justin Starr, and myself, did quite well in the final tournament, placing third out of seventeen overall.  The final tournament was actually a very well-produced public event, and a ton of fun.  For more information, feel free to visit the official robockey website.

Here is an awesome video put together by my teammate Joe Polin which showcases our mechanical design and a little game footage:

Third place overall, but how many robotics teams can say they have fans this devoted?
How many robotics teams can say they have fans this devoted?

Our team was red-white-and-blue themed, and our robots were named (sort of) after united states presidents – Millard Killmore, Martin Van Bruisin’, and Grover Cleaveland.  I don’t think there was any questioning the fact that we had the most team spirit at the public tournament – a significant portion of Joe and Justin’s fraternity showed up to cheer us on, and we were even featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Some more pictures and videos of our robots can be found below…

Continue reading UPenn Mechatronics – Robockey!

Ping-pong, snacks, and segways: on startup culture

I have to admit, I’ve always been a little skeptical of the idea of the “fun-loving tech startup” — companies full of geeks lounging on bean bag chairs and playing ping-pong. The idea that a pampering environment could stimulate creativity and lead to wild success in the great internet frontier always seemed a bit trite. Weren’t these really just a bunch of geeks who got lucky, now attributing their success to some nebulous inspiration found between the primary-colored walls of their offices?

Continue Reading at  

NYC Music Hackathon

I had a great time this Saturday at the NYC Music Hackathon, where I hacked, coded, and generally made a lot of very strange sounds for many hours.  I teamed up with my fellow Knewton intern Dylan Sherry to hack together some cool signal processing software using Supercollider, an open source programming language for sound synthesis and signal processing.

Continue reading NYC Music Hackathon