Udacity and Electric Movement Release Robotics Nanodegree Term 1 Syllabus

As you may remember, earlier this month at Intersect 2017, we joined Udacity in announcing the launch of their brand new Robotics Nanodegree. Today, we're excited to jointly unveil the detailed curriculum for the Term One, outlining the course of study for each week of the first twelve weeks and describing the specific projects that will challenge the students in their early robotics endeavors.

From learning the basics of the Robot Operating system or "ROS" to writing a solid control algorithm and performing collision detection and motion planning, we look forward to showing students the ins-and-outs of robotics engineering. 

Have questions about learning robotics or anything else? Check out Udacity's Robotics Nanodegree FAQs. Or feel free to get in touch with us

Amy Hooker-Kidd
Partnering with Udacity on the Robotics Nanodegree

Earlier today, e-learning provider Udacity announced the launch of its new Robotics Nanodegree program, which will allow students to learn things like perception, localization, path planning, control and the Robot Operating System (ROS) as well as robotic hardware systems. And Electric Movement is proud to announce that we're Udacity's content partner for the Robotics Nanodegree, leading development of the curriculum and helping transform today's passionate students into tomorrow's engineers.

Our founder and CEO Dan Reuter had this to say about the collaboration:

As a contract robotics engineering firm, we’ve helped numerous startups and enterprise firms move their robotics projects from conceptual design through prototyping, manufacturing and production. We’re excited to bring our real-world experience to Udacity’s virtual classroom, to teach tomorrow’s engineers the philosophies and skills they’ll need to build the robots of the future.

Read Udacity's Robotics Nanodegree announcement here.

Find out more about the Robotics Nanodegree on Udacity's site here.

Learn more about Electric Movement's involvement and sign up for behind-the-scenes EM info here.


Amy Hooker-Kidd
March 1 - Bots and Beer

It's Bots and Beer time!


Special thanks to Udacity for sponsoring this month's event. Come check out what Udacity is up to with their Self-Driving Car, Deep Learning & AI nanodegrees. There will be folks from Udacity here to talk to about their courses and how they're on a mission to change the future of education.

It will be a fun night of demonstrations, interactions, announcements, and (of course) beer and pizza. Bring your robotic demos to share!

For first time visitors, Bots and Beer is a casual event that brings professional and hobbyists together to talk about all things robotics. Check out the video below from Feb 1.

Bots & Beer
Wednesday, March 1, 2017

3334 Victor Ct,
Santa Clara, CA, 95054

Event & Parking at rear of building - Google Maps

RSVP on SVR’s Meetup page: https://www.meetup.com/Silicon-Valley-Robotics/events/236945126/



Michelle Osuga
Feb 1 - Star Wars night at Bots & Beer

It’s time for Bots & Beer: Star Wars edition!

Courtesy of Bay Area R2 Builders/Facebook

Courtesy of Bay Area R2 Builders/Facebook

We have many great visitors coming to the event, including members of the Bay Area R2 Builders club and their droids!

It will be a fun night of demonstrations, interactions, announcements, and (of course) beer and pizza.  

For first time visitors, Bots and Beer is a casual event that brings professional and hobbyists together to talk about all things robotics.  It’s also a great place to show off your robot, get tips and suggestions to improve or make a robot, or to find who is hiring in the field.

Bots & Beer
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

3334 Victor Ct,
Santa Clara, Ca, 95054

Event & Parking at rear of building - Google Maps

RSVP on SVR’s Meetup page https://www.meetup.com/Silicon-Valley-Robotics/events/236142626/


Daniel Reuter
Rapid Prototyping: Encoder Mounts

Yesterday, our engineers had an encoder mounting problem. They wanted to mount their sensor on the inside of their cart’s wheel but there wasn’t an obvious place to mount it. Brian, our machinist, had done an amazing thing. By just looking at the sensor and cart, he designed a bracket for the encoder in a span of half an hour!  

The prototype he made was a bracket and two metal plates with small springs in between them. Why are the springs important? They allow the mount to move up and down with the moving brake drum when it spins. This way the encoder can stay in constant contact with the drum, even when it hits its high and low spots, and not damage itself, such as getting bent if it was stationary. This proof of concept prototype was temporary but allowed us to collect the data we needed to go to the next step in our project. Our future production version will probably integrate into the axle or wheel hub, but this quick and dirty prototype got us going for now.

encoderdydoder (1).gif
Silicon Valley Robotics Influencer Salon: Are we ready for Autonomous Driving?
Panel Speakers: Saurabh Palan, Aaron Nathan, Dan Reuter, Shahin Farshchi, and Wendy Ju

Panel Speakers: Saurabh Palan, Aaron Nathan, Dan Reuter, Shahin Farshchi, and Wendy Ju

On December 13, 2016, our very own CEO, Dan Reuter, was a panelist at Silicon Valley Robotics Influencer Salon “Self Driving Technology: Are we there yet?.”

Speakers included:

Wendy Ju, Center for Automotive Research Stanford
Aaron Nathan, Point One Navigation
Shahin Farshchi, Lux Capital
Dan Reuter, Electric Movement
Saurabh Palan, Toyota Research Institute, moderator

These experts discussed the technical and business challenges that are holding back commercialized level five autonomy vehicles.

Dan Reuter’s take on what is keeping the industry from full commercialization of self drive technology:

"It's not a technical problem but a business problem," he had said, "Google worked on their autonomous vehicle for eight years without a clear business plan, go to market strategy, or product definition. It's all just been prototypes. You have to have a specific goal in mind. You can't just say, ‘We're going to make autonomous driving a reality.’ You need to say, ‘We're going to build a car. Or, we're going to work with OEMs to provide the technology.’  You need a clear and specific goal if you're going to have hundreds of people work on this, and you have to give them a direction on where to go so everything aligns or there won't be any progress."

Aaron Nathan brought up an interesting pragmatic perspective on the subject: companies need to focus on a niche, or subset, of autonomy instead of focusing on full level five autonomy.  There’s no software and hardware platform for all conditions and locations, so we need to focus on what can be accomplished right now.  With incremental autonomy, companies are able to ship their products to the public faster.  

Shahin Farshchi, coming from an investment perspective, added that whoever ships is going to win.  You can't ship if you only research and test your product.  Zoox’s, an autonomous startup that is backed by Lux Capital, was used as an example of a company that is attempting to ship first.

Wendy Ju, an Executive Director for Interaction Design Research at Stanford, found that UX research isn’t getting the attention that it should.  For example, she doesn’t believe that Google had tested all the permutations in their autonomous vehicle before making the decision that level five autonomy was the only solution for their business.  If she had been brought in to do a comprehensive study, she would have figured out a configuration to make incremental side assistant driving work.  

Special thanks to Andra Keay of Silicon Valley Robotics for organizing the event and to Tempo Automation for hosting.


Michelle Osuga
Assembly spotlight: Timer Boxes

Sometimes good engineering can look like really boring projects. To design a system right, end to end, there are elements which are relatively simple, specific, and not all that exciting. Today we're looking at one of those projects: a timer circuit for our sister organization Electric Fleet.

Electric Fleet's customer is using a 48 volt Columbia Summit Utilitruck with a 12 volt light bar for security patrols around their campus. The vehicle has an onboard 12v DC-DC converter for powering headlights and accessories, however, it is tied to the cart's keyswitch and does not provide power when the cart is off. 

Electric Fleet found in a user study that the customer's security team would need to operate the light bars while the cart was not running. We wanted to give them that functionality, but we didn't want them to inadvertently leave the light bar on and drain the batteries. 

Electric Movement's solution was to design a timer circuit with its own DC-DC that would pull power for the light bar for 4 hours following the cart's shutoff. The timer circuit also has a low voltage shutoff to prevent the light bar from damaging the batteries. 

Eric, one of our electrical engineers, took the lead on this project in design as well as managing the assembly documentation and build. Caleb & Jay worked with Eric to assembly the PCBs, the enclosures and prepare the harness for installation. The team worked with panalized boards so they could build 5 at a time. They also used a reflow soldering technique which shaved hours off the process compared to hand soldering. Check out their assembly process start to finish: