Mobile Inverted Pendulums (MIPs)
On an auspicious night before a final exam in MAE143c (Digital Controls) in 2004, Prof Bewley concocted a cartoon-like representation of a (Segway-like) Mobile Inverted Pendulum with an internal spring mechanism that facilitated pogo-stick-like hopping, together with a set of questions related to the self-uprighting and feedback stabilization of such a system. He thought the students would simply answer these questions, and that would be that. Instead, three talented undergraduates approached Prof Bewley after the exam and expressed interest in staying at UCSD for their Masters degrees and building such systems. The UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab was thus formed.
In 2014, ten years and many prototypes later (including hoppers, self-uprighting MIPs, and MIPs that can pick up and throw ping-pong balls), our lab, together with WowWee, introduced the first feedback-balanced mass-market low-cost consumer toy, dubbed MiP, which sold millions of units, won many awards (including Innovative Toy Of The Year from the Toy Association of America), and now has many spinoffs. In parallel with the development of low-cost toys, we developed linux-based educational robotics kits for our Digital Controls course, which has evolved into our current hardware-focused interdisciplinary Embedded Control & Robotics course. We are now broadly selling these eduMIP kits, and developing others (including a 4WD/4WS rover, and a hexacopter).
On the research side, we are working towards including a third motor in a robust MIP, enabling it’s body to shinny up it’s leg, thus facilitating an end-over-end “inverse slinky” stair-climbing maneuver. We are also developing vision algorithms to identify the rise & run, and vehicle pose in front of, a set of stairs, thus enabling the planning & execution of autonomous stair-climbing.