Those who study robotics are always looking for ways to improve how robots get around. A constant source of inspiration in robotics is nature, which has evolved countless animals who move effectively in many different ways. A common way to get around in nature is through bouncing or jumping. This method of movement can be extremely versatile and efficient when compared to more basic mechanisms such as walking or rolling. The key difference between bouncing and jumping is the introduction of an elastic component. This small change allows energy to be stored and released with each impact, greatly increasing the efficiency compared to a system where the energy for each jump needs to be supplied entirely by a muscle or motor. The incredible feats of endurance runners are in large part a result of using elastic tendons in the legs to store and release energy with each stride. Without these tendons, marathoners would get tired long before the end of the race.
The aim of this project is to design and build a bouncing mechanism that is controllable along the vertical, jumping axis. In order to accomplish this goal, a mechanism was first designed, and then a control algorithm was created to fit the dynamic model of the system. This presentation will focus on the mechanism design choices and how they affect the robots performance and control algorithm. Creating the control algorithm is a difficult and interesting challenge because it requires consideration of processes that occur very quickly and subconsciously when we move, but must be done deliberately and explicitly in robotics. The process of refining the algorithm will help us understand the bouncing motion even better. Consideration will also be given to how the control system or mechanism could be modified or built upon to create more complex motion going forward. If the system is working on Steinmetz day, a demonstration will be given using the actual robot in a controlled environment.