According to Seminatore, the final goal behind the THALeR project is to create a 30-foot tall robot that can serve as a mobile communication tower or observation post. The THALeR project is an attempt to change the ways in which robots move and to mimic the walking style of humans. This is very much in line with the lab’s research interests which include robot locomotion and manipulation, as well as kinematics and mechanisms as stated on the RoMeLa website.
“Our overall goal is to be able to make robots to help people, and the movement of robots and having them be able to walk like people is a very big part of that,” Seminatore said.
RoMeLa is located in the basement of Randolph Hall and is comprised of three different facilities known as RoMeLa 1, RoMeLa 2 and RoMeLa 3. Seminatore said that these areas house the various tools and working spaces that the researchers need to be able to design and fabricate the robots, which are almost completely built in-house. Only a few of the parts are directly purchased from outside manufacturers. Tours of the lab spaces are held by graduate students based on appointment for anyone interested in visiting the facilities.
According to Knabe, the lab is made up of mostly graduate students with about 20 to 30 undergraduate volunteers.
“We work long hours,” Knabe said. “I think if you go in the lab at almost anytime of night or day, there will be somebody working. It’s not because Dr. (Dennis) Hong wants us to, or because we have to, but because once we get started on a project, we really enjoy being there and getting work done.”
The researchers at RoMeLa are dedicated to advancing the field of robotics. This dedication and drive for success has caught the eye of more than just academics. The lab will be featured this fall in an episode of PBS’ science program “NOVA scienceNOW.” The lab will also appear on an episode of “Through the Wormhole,” a science documentary show on the Science Channel in the summer of 2013.
This isn’t the first time that the lab has been in the media. Hong, an associate professor and the founding director of RoMeLa, was personally profiled in an episode of a Korean documentary television series known as “Age of Global Success” for the achievements of RoMeLa.
“RoMeLa is trying to bring robots to the point where they operate in a more human-like fashion and can eventually help humans in the home, and in the job environment” Seminatore said.