Engineers from Saudi Aramco’s Research and Development Center (R&DC) recently conducted a five-day workshop at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal to teach the university students the basics of robotic system design, development, and programming.
The project-based workshop, titled “Design and Build Your Own Robot,” was conducted as part of the Winter Enrichment Program held at the university to give the 35 participating students a hands-on development experience with direct application to the industry.
Engineers from the Intelligent Systems Team, part of the Oil & Gas Network Integrity (OGNI) division at Saudi Aramco, facilitated the workshop as a way to pass on their knowledge in building industrial robots.
The Intelligent Systems Team conducts cutting-edge research in the field of robotics to solve some of the company’s chronic operational challenges, including inspection and monitoring of assets that are difficult to access and reach, as well as reducing the cost and impact of corrosion. With their many years of experience designing field deployable robots, the team helped prepare future engineers for careers in this high-tech field.
Design and programming
Three parallel specialties were covered, including mechanical design, electrical design, and embedded programming. Six interdisciplinary teams were formed — each of which included five or six students who covered the three different specializations providing insight into what it’s like to work on a robotics development team with each engineer responsible for a separate sub system critical to the operation of the overall system.
The workshop covered computer-aided design for both mechanical components and electronic boards, as well as the basics of programming embedded microcontrollers, which serve as the robot’s “brains.” Students then assembled robots, performed testing and debugging, and were able to troubleshoot electrical anomalies while fine-tuning their code.
Off to the races
The six teams competed in a race, which was the culmination of the workshop, with each team using the robot they developed to complete certain timed tasks, including a remote-control race and an autonomous trajectory following challenge. The winning teams took their robots home as a prize, along with certificates documenting their achievement.
“I believe the workshop was a great and effective experience in improving both individual and team skills,” said Amjad Felemban, an attendee and student at KAUST. “The way the workshop divided team members into different project roles was essential in teaching someone how to build their technical skills and communicate with the rest of the team members in a workplace-like fashion.”