Digital Learning Network Event with Robotics Engineer Jonathan Rogers

Uploaded by ReelNASA on 24.01.2012

>> Now guys I've got a very special treat for you.
We're now going to go into the International Space Station mission control room and speak
with Public Affairs Commentator, Kylie Clem and a robotics engineer, Jonathan Rogers.
Are you guys there in mission control?
>> Kylie Clem: Hello, we're here in mission control.
Welcome, we're glad you could join us today and we're happy to take questions.
I'd like to introduce Jonathan to you first.
Jonathan Rogers is a robotics engineer.
He works with Robonaut 2 and other robotics here on the ground.
Robonaut 2 as you mentioned is on board the International Space Station
which is controlled from this room.
The team here is watching over the systems and following along with the six crew members
who are living and working on board.
So I'd like to talk to Jonathan first about his background and how he came to work at NASA.
>> Jonathan Rogers: Hello.
As we've said my name's Jonathan Rogers.
I actually came to NASA through an outreach program that my current group.
It was called First Robotics [phonetic] and it gives an opportunity for high school students
to work with professional engineers, in my case NASA engineers
to develop a robot to play a game each year.
And that competition just started a couple of weeks ago so we're looking forward to that.
Following participating in the First Robotics program, I went to Texas A&M University
where I got a degree in aerospace engineering and during that time I was able to take part
in NASA's Cooperative Education Program which allowed me to spend semesters here
at the Johnson Space Center working on robots and then I would take
that knowledge and apply it to my classes.
And then I've been full-time working on the Robonaut 2 project for the last four years.
>> Kylie Clem: So how's it been like sending the Robonaut to space
and then working with it in space?
>> Jonathan Rogers: It's been an amazing opportunity.
When we developed the project, we started in 2007 and it was a partnership
with the General Motors Corporation.
We found out that a lot of the goals that we have match up with the goals they have in terms
of helping people through the use of advanced robotics.
So we began this project purely as a technology demonstration platform where we could try
out new things and really push the envelope of what robotics are capable of doing.
When we announced the project to the world in 2010, we were given the unique opportunity
to fly it onboard the International Space Station on STS-133
which was just about a year ago, last February.
And in August we began working with it and we're continuing to check out the robot
and make sure it traveled safely to space.
And we really look forward to the future in finding out what it can do to help astronauts.
>> Kylie Clem: So what have you had to do --
you work with the Robonaut here on earth for quite a while before it actually
to the space station and other robots also.
So now that it's onboard the space station what have you been going
through to make sure that it's working well?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So to begin we just turned on the robot and let it sit there for a couple
of hours onboard the space station.
During the time, here in the mission control center we watched data and you know we checked
out all the censors aboard the robot to make sure
that they had successfully made the trip into space.
And we were also learning, you know, how to interact with the other crew members on board
and the other flight controllers here in mission control to,
you know, safely accomplish our goals.
Over the next couple of checkout activities we've begun moving the robot
so we exercise every single joint aboard the robot.
And we learn how it's different to operate it in space than we've been working with it here
on the ground for the last few years.
And while it may seem very, very similar there are subtle differences
that really change how you control a robot.
>> Kylie Clem: And what do you think it might be able to do
in the future onboard the space station?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So some of the tasks that we're really going for are things that are dull
or boring for the crew, that take up a lot of their time.
For example we would love to have the robot to be able to clean.
The crew devotes a significant portion of their time on the weekends to just cleaning
up around the space station that way it's nice and tidy and you know it's a good place to live.
So if we can have a robot go take care of some of those tasks and you know off load it
from the crew, they could either have more free time or more time to spend
on different science experiments.
>> Kylie Clem: That sounds good.
Well, we'll go ahead and start with questions from the students.
>> Questions?
What questions do you have about the man who actually was instrumental in building Robonaut?
Go ahead, nice and loud.
>> Will you ever add legs to Robonaut?
>> Jonathan Rogers: Yes, we're actually working on legs right now.
We've got a pair of them in our lab here at the Johnson Space Center.
And we're learning how to control those here on the ground before we send them to space.
But the Robonaut is unique in that we can suit the lower body to the task at hand.
So if we were to send Robonaut to a planet as we go and explore the solar system,
we might find that like an off roader type of vehicle might be suitable for the lower base.
You know climbing around on space station we've determined
that two legs will be the best way to get around.
And you know that might change as we go outside the space station
to help astronauts with space walks.
>> Go ahead Stephanie [phonetic].
Nice and loud.
>> Stephanie: What [inaudible] Robonaut's helmet?
>> Jonathan Rogers: Inside Robonaut's helmet are actually five cameras.
We've got two cameras that are used by a human operator.
One of the modes we have to control Robonaut is where a person puts on virtual reality gear.
So you wear a headset and put on gloves and the robot will actually mimic your motions.
So we have cameras in there that are used for teleoperation
and then we also have two more cameras that are used for machine vision.
Robonaut is programmed to identify things in its environment and we use those cameras to do that.
They're really high resolution and allows the robot to see very good.
And then finally we have an infrared camera which allows the robot
to get a sense of depth in front of it.
>> Nice. More questions?
Go ahead Emily [phonetic], nice and loud.
>> Emily: What's the robot power [inaudible]?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So right now we're getting power
from the International Space Station itself.
We get power off the solar rays.
That's you know passed through a number of systems before it gets to the robot.
Inside the robot's backpack we have power conversion that turns
into the different voltages that the robot needs to run.
One of the things that we're working on as we develop legs is also a large battery backpack.
That way it won't have to be plugged in all the time.
>> Go ahead, nice and loud.
>> How many people are needed to make a robot?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So to build Robonaut we had a team of about 25 people.
So it's pretty small but as we've gone through the process to send it to space,
we've had to bring in a lot more experts.
You know we're very good at designing robots.
We don't know anything about how to prepare them for space flight and there are experts here
at the Johnson Space Center who specialize in that.
Those folks work on things from making sure that we're compatible
with the power system onboard space station and making sure that we don't put
out any harmful radio waves that might interfere with other experiments on space station.
And then one of the biggest surprises we had was that we had to change the robot's suit.
The clothes that we had put on Robonaut we're actually too flammable to be considered safe
for space station so we had to make that change as well.
And you know we brought in the right folks from here at the Johnson Space Center to help us.
Now I'd say we probably have between 75 and 100 people working on Robonaut at least part-time.
>> Wow. Good, nice and loud.
>> How did you guys get the idea for Robonaut?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So the Robonaut project started in 1997 with a goal of designing a robot
to help astronauts on space walks.
As astronauts were building the International Space Station there were many times
where identified you know a need for an assistant or a surrogate to go out
and help astronauts do different tasks.
So we've been working on the robot ever since
and this is Robonaut 2 that's onboard the space station which is our second generation.
>> Go ahead, nice and loud.
>> What materials or tools did you use to make [inaudible] Robonaut?
>> Jonathan Rogers: That's a very good question.
So primarily it's aluminum.
In certain places we have steel where we needed a stronger material and then we also have a lot
of plastic where, you know, we didn't need as much as strength in an area
but you wanted electronics or something to be protected.
For example, the helmet is plastic.
>> Go ahead, you have a question.
Anybody else?
Go ahead [inaudible].
>> What did you add to Robonaut 2 that Robonaut 1 didn't have?
>> Jonathan Rogers: Another great question.
With Robonaut 2 we concentrated on making the robot faster, stronger and smarter.
So in addition to changing the motors and things and allow the robot to move,
we also added a lot more sensing.
For example, the robot has sensors in each of its finger types that allow it to feel.
You can think of the technology as you know reaching
into your pocket to tell a nickel from a dime.
We have different cameras onboard that, like I said, have higher resolution
so we can see the environment in front of the robot better.
And then the control system, the software that runs the robot is also very different.
You know our partnership with GM we found
out that we want robots to work very close to people.
And traditional robotics on assembly lines you have cages and a number of different things
to keep robots away from people so that people don't get hurt.
In our view of the way of robots and people should work together.
They'll be very close so we added sensing and programming
to allow the robot to work safely around people.
For example it can bump into you and not hurt you.
>> And learn to say excuse me.
>> Jonathan Rogers: It actually can't talk yet.
That's one of the things that we haven't worked in.
We need to put some speakers in but we didn't have time to do
that before we launched it to Space Station.
>> Did it go up on a separate mission or did it go with astronauts that we're going up?
Or did it go up by itself automatically?
>> Jonathan Rogers: It flew up as a payload on STS-133.
>> Right.
>> Jonathan Rogers: And there were astronauts aboard as well.
It was Discovery I believe.
>> Kylie Clem: Yeah the space shuttle Discovery.
>> Go ahead.
>> What does payload mean?
>> Payload means that supplies that are going up.
In other words, when they say they're bringing payload, they're bringing food.
They're bringing water.
They're bringing machinery, tools, correct?
Is that correct?
>> Jonathan Rogers: That's exactly right.
So we were packaged inside a protective box and lot of foam along with a number
of replacement supplies for Space Station since the shuttle program was coming to an end.
We were launching a number of different things that'll ensure
that the astronauts have what they need to continue operating Space Station safely.
>> This is a live picture here at mission control.
Go ahead. We'll let both of you, go ahead.
>> How long has the Robonaut been up in space?
>> Jonathan Rogers: It's been there almost a year.
STS-133 launched in February of 2011.
>> And one more month will be a year.
Go ahead Emily.
>> And what are the similarities between like the joints and things
like that on the Robonaut and humans?
>> Jonathan Rogers: Another great question.
So Robonaut has electric motors in each of its joints.
So where you have muscles that allow your arm to move, we do a little bit differently
but the resulting motion is still the same.
The hand is more similar though.
If you move your hand you can kind of feel muscles in your forearm move
as your fingers move and in Robonaut we have mechanical actuators
that pull tendons to move the fingers.
And that's exactly how the human hand is --
there's a lot we can learn about how to build a human shaped robot from the human body itself.
>> I think somebody else had their hand up.
Yeah go ahead [inaudible].
>> [Inaudible] well why do you need both human and robots up [inaudible]?
>> Jonathan Rogers: So like I mentioned earlier there's things that the crew has to do
that takes a lot of their time that, you know, maybe doesn't require their full attention.
For example, cleaning takes up a lot of their time.
So we can, you know, have a robot that maybe doesn't have to be as smart as a person
but can take care of those things.
A couple of other ways that we anticipate using a Robonaut include being a surrogate
for astronaut.
So think of a mission that might be kind of dangerous
if we're exploring a planet and there's somewhere new.
Maybe you don't want to send an astronaut down a cave or something that could be dangerous
but you kind of want to know what's down there.
If you send a robot and something bad happens, you lose a Robonaut
but the astronauts are still okay and that's what we really care about.
Additionally we want to use Robonaut to help setup for space walks.
A lot of time that astronauts use on a space walk where they go outside the space station
to do a maintenance activity or assemble something is spent setting up.
If you could have a robot go out there and do it ahead of time for them,
they can devote more time to their task at hand.
>> Go ahead sweetheart, nice and loud.
>> Have there been any issues yet?
>> Jonathan Rogers: Well, we're discovering that there are differences
in between how we [inaudible] the robot on the ground and how it's operating in space.
For example, you don't have as much friction in some of the joints.
It's less resistance as you try to move the robot because there's no gravity.
So little things like that we're learning and we're making adjustments as we go.
>> Okay sounds good.
I'll give you late passes.
I think we're almost finished anyway.
So --
>> And if you guys have any additional questions,
for example about the Space Station itself
or mission control I believe Kylie would be able to answer those as well.
>> Do you have any questions for the woman who's here, Ms. Kylie?
She can answer any questions about mission control and the people who are sitting --
did you notice the people sitting at the desks and things like that?
Do you have any questions for that group?
Yeah I think we're okay.
>> All right wonderful.
Well, Kylie and Jonathan I want to thank you guys for joining us today
from inside the International Space Station flight control room.
And boys and girls can we give them a good round of applause.
>> Jonathan Rogers: Thank you.
>> Thank you so much.
>> Kylie Clem: Thank you.
>> We have one final thing we'd like to say too.
>> Okay.
>> Group of students: Thank you [inaudible].
>> Yeah thanks so much.
>> Kylie Clem: You're welcome.
>> Thank you very much for your time.
I can't tell you how informative it was and you could tell
by the questions the level of interests.
And these are your future robototists [phonetic] right here.
Thank you.
>> And before we close students if you want to stay on the line I want to go
over one final thing with you guys.
Thank you.