Welcome!

Gabrielle Conard's Projects, Reports, and More

Welcome!

This humble corner of the internet contains a collection of my undergraduate and graduate work thus far, ranging from coursework for classes such as ME 331: Instrumentation and Data Acquisition to my research on quadruped robots.

Resume

For a quick summary of my work and experiences, you can take a look at my resume. You can also check out my LinkedIn profile for a more comprehensive summary of my experiences.

Quadruped Robots

Lafayette OpenDog

For me, this is where it all began. Inspired by James Bruton’s openDog, I collaborated with Professor Alexander Brown and Sanha Lee ‘20 during the summer of 2019 to begin the development of a large-scale quadruped robot. My resposibilities included investigating the literature to inform our hardware and software design, deriving the inverse kinematics model for the robot, developing Python scripts using ROS to interface with the motor controllers, implementing a simple walking mechanism on a single leg (as demonstrated below), and aiding my partner in some of the mechanical design and assembly.

Lafayette OpenDog Box Gait

Take a look at our GitHub repository, opendog_ros.

Sanha and the Lafayette OpenDog Senior Design Team continued this project over the 2019-2020 school year. To see their continued progress, check out the README file on opendog_ros for details about their repositories.

MicroDog: A Low-Cost Quadruped Robot

Starting as an independent study in the spring of my junior year (2020), this project has slowly morphed into my senior thesis titled “Stepping Up: Investigating Dynamic Stability in a Low-Cost Quadruped Robot.” After noting a lack of inexpensive quadruped platforms that could be used by both researchers and robotics students, Professor Brown and I have developed several iterations of a roughly $150 quadruped robot to meet this need. Standing at about 6 inches tall, this platform consists of twelve RC servos, a 7.4V battery pack for untethered walking, and several 3D-printed components. In addition, I designed the custom printed circuit board that serves as the robot’s chassis, which features an integrated ATmega32u4, a Raspberry Pi Zero, a few IR sensors, an IMU, and a number of power and communication breakout pins and mounting holes to make this an expandable platform.

On the software side, I focused primarily on developing a simplistic walking gait and implementing active compliance in the legs of MicroDog during my independent study. To do this, we designed compressible feet, each fitted with a Hall effect sensor to measure the amount that the foot was compressed. The “spring constant” of the foot was experimentally derived, allowing us to determine the force being applied to the bottom of the foot.

Using springs again as a model for joint compliance, we could tune how much the foot position compensated in response to an applied force.

Demonstrating Active Compliance on MicroDog

For more details about my independent study, see my final report.

This work set the foundation for my thesis project. My original goals are presented in my thesis proposal paper and presentation.. During the Fall 2020 semester, I developed improved walking gaits, such as the example in the video below, and experimented with obstacle avoidance using IR sensors by having the robot avoid the edge of a table.

MicroDog Walking

After designing and constructing a fourth iteration of the robot to address some electrical issues, I spent the rest of the spring semester investigating methods of implementing disturbance recovery from a side load using the force sensors in the feet.

MicroDog Disturbance Recovery

This work has received some press coverage as well, first by IEEE in a fun article describing how roboticists have been working from home and again by Lafayette News.

This work culminated in a final thesis report and defense presentation. While I have passed my thesis defense and the project is “finished”, there is so much more that can be done with this platform. I hope to publish a paper in the near future about the work I have done on it thus far, and hopefully, future students at Lafayette can continue exploring what this robot can do, like stair climbing or uneven terrain navigation.

2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

This past spring, I was honored to receive a 2021 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, without which I would not have been able to go to graduate school this year. While my interests also include terrestrial robotic locomotion and mechatronics, my Graduate Research Plan Statement captures my interest in gesture-based communication and human-robot interaction as well as reflects my ability to investigate the literature and develop a research plan.

Coursework

ME 331: Instrumentation and Data Acquisition

In addition to learning about instrumentation, data collection and processing, uncertainty analysis, and experimental design, this course also allowed me to further develop my technical writing skills through the creation of several lab reports, each the result of a few instructor- and peer-reviewed drafts. While we performed the experiments and analysis in pairs, we wrote individual reports. Here are two of my reports:

Conard, G. “Influence of Orifice Diameter on Discharge Coefficient.” (2020)
Conard, G. “Determining Material Properties and Beam Stresses Using Strain Gages.” (2020)

Contact

If you have further questions, feel free to contact me at ggconard@wpi.edu.