Club History Overview

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Our Mission

The Carnegie Mellon Robotics Club is a student organization at Carnegie Mellon University. We provide everything students need to build robots: work space, computers, tools, supplies, money, and experienced people to answer questions and help with projects. In short, we build robots for fun.

Our History

The Robotics Club has a long and rich history. We were founded in 1984, which makes us one of the oldest collegiate robotics clubs in the world, and older than almost all of our current members. For more detail check out our yearly history pages (sidebar).

Early Years

In the Summer of 1984 four guys from CMU decided to form a club where they could work on robots. They quickly recruited almost 100 dues paying members who were interested in robots, but the numbers quickly thinned. After some controversy involving our treasurer resigning, we managed to secure a room at the old Mellon College of Science building near Craig Street in Oakland. It had double height ceilings, so we built a booth for Spring carnival and then used the booth framework it to create a loft. It was a "funky arrangement. We had a sofa up in the loft and practically the whole room was taken up with the air-hockey table." (Mitchell London, '87) The Air Hockey Robot was one of our first projects. It worked, though not very well, and had a vision system to track the puck. Not much is known about what we did after that, until Moose...

Walking Machine Years

In the early '90s we started competing in the SAE Walking Machines Decathlon. We had moved into the Planetary Robotics Building (PRB), and were working on our first entries, Moose and Sidewinder. While Sidewinder never worked in time for the competition, it did have 4 independently controlled legs and looked pretty cool. The next year we came back with Sidewinder II, which did much better. This was probably the first robot at the competition to use a VME cage and Ethernet communications. We later added an IR beacon system and pickup device for the object retrieval.

By this point we had moved into the Field Robotics Center (FRC). We realized that a frame walker would be much more efficient if the center of mass moved with a constant velocity. To achieve this we started working on Jim, so named "because no one had a better suggestion" (Rich LaBarca '98). Jim was made out of motors salvaged from a NASA robot, Daedalus, and a wooden frame. While Jim never really worked, it gave us a lot of good ideas for our final Walking Machines Decathalon robot, Jim 2. With this robot we went on to win the competition in 2000, and won awards for Excellence in Autonomy and Overall Award of Excellence. This got the club a lot of good press.

At the same time as the frame walkers were taking over the club, we were working on biped robot named Iria. This robot worked, and was even mentioned in a Qrio patent.

Recent History

After the success of Jim 2 we decided to move onto other projects, and were back in the PRB. Rather than focusing on one or two big robots we started many projects, including a helicopter robot, a battlebot, and more. In 2003 we started the Colony project, which has become one of our most successful projects. These smaller simpler robots were more accessible to new members. So with the help of several strong leaders the club grew from around 20 members around 2003 to over 140 members in 2006. We have twice tried to restart the Air Hockey project that got everything started, and expect to complete it soon. Our BattleBots team has taken several top spots and awards. In 2005 we moved to our current home in the basement of the University Center where we have continued to thrive.