Breakfast of Champions, Prepared by Your Neighborhood Robot

No have to have for fancy cafes. For your future coffee and pancake purchase, all you need is a few of robots – and USC Viterbi students to software them.

Absent are the days when you will need to evaluate out your pancake batter or expend significantly too lengthy perfecting your pour-more than strategy. Now, breakfast is served with a side of robotic.

USC Viterbi students Vineeth Rajesh and Justin Lockwood make “SC” themed pancakes with the help of a Baxter robot. PHOTO/AVNI SHAH.

USC Viterbi learners Vineeth Rajesh and Justin Lockwood make “SC” themed pancakes with the assistance of a Baxter robot. Photograph/AVNI SHAH.

USC Viterbi University of Engineering pupils explored robotics at the Center for Highly developed Manufacturing (CAM) this semester in buy to convey to life the most critical food of the day—breakfast. For Justin Lockwood and Vineeth Rajesh, a junior and freshman in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering respectively, earning pancakes utilizing a Baxter robotic made available a artistic way to take a look at the matter of “robot manipulation of nonrigid objects,” as part of their CURVE research fellowship. SK Gupta, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and director of CAM, was their adviser.

For master’s students Anthony Tran and Yang Yang, making coffee utilizing a robot seemed like the fantastic challenge for their very first working experience doing work with a robotic as element of AME 547 “Foundations for Production Automation,” taught by Gupta, the Smith International Professor in mechanical engineering. In every single case, the learners seasoned a steep finding out curve and developed a sound foundation in a skillset that is getting a lot more than nice-to-have, but crucial in a lot of industries across the engineering area.

A Excellent Cup of Coffee

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Anthony Tran is much more than a coffee lover, he’s a bona fide enthusiast. At home, he has an elaborate espresso brewing set up that rivals your neighborhood coffeeshop, all in an try to make each day that oh-so-ideal cup of brew. When he and Yang Yang partnered for a challenge in robotics for Gupta’s producing automation fundamentals study course, there was just one method he was jazzed about perfecting: pour-over espresso.

The group brainstormed suggestions, thinking about expense, feasibility and intrigue component. With a timeline of 3 months, latte art proved much too tough to tackle, but coffee ongoing to confirm inviting.

Explained Tran: “I have a palate for espresso and required to check out to make the finest cup. It’s a big component of everyone’s lives—and it is a multibillion-dollar business.”

In point, 62% of Americans consume at the very least one particular cup of coffee a day, and 43% of espresso drinkers beneath 30 choose to purchase their everyday brew and rely on the benefit and experience offered by baristas. Tran and Yang were motivated by the art of coffee generating, noting it is a pretty meticulous process—one that could be difficult to recreate in a robot’s palms.

They began the programming system by looking into methodology. How does a person build the ideal cup of coffee? Tran and Yang took be aware of a specific approach, touted by a Japanese barista Tetsu Kasuya, who gained the 2016 Earth Barista Competitors. Kasuya says that everyone can make tasty espresso. Tran and Yang extrapolated this, finding out from his extremely precise h2o measurements and pour-over approach to redefine the “anyone” in the equation to consist of a robotic.

1st methods integrated determining the components. The team used laptop or computer-aided style (CAD) to 3D print an object that mimicked the human hand and could hold the V60 gooseneck kettle they requested on line. Employing a 3D scanner, they have been able to get specifications recreating the elaborate curvature of the kettle and print the hand-like object.

From there, the group appeared at the software program. Though Yang had a primary knowledge of the robot running process (ROS) from her freshman 12 months study course in laptop or computer science, this spot was completely new to Tran. For the two of them, RROS presented the greatest obstacle in completing their job.

“Planning the trajectories was definitely important, simply because planning wherever to make the robot go—and the circular movement demanded for the pour-over—was necessary in creating the coffee,” Tran said.

At initially, the group could only make the robotic arm pour in a fifty percent circle. “Knowing the robotic library was hard,” Yang reported.

Over and above programming trajectories, there ended up a quantity of technical areas to the software package layout, like creating a dialogue in the consumer interface concerning sought after flavor and energy of the brew. Centered on these person inputs, the robotic establishes how substantially drinking water need to be poured and when.

Yang also stated they experienced to be unique about the placement of the robotic arm. “The angle is significant, mainly because how a lot the robotic tilts the kettle will figure out how substantially drinking water is dispensed—and whether it is the right sum for the process. How the espresso tastes will depend on how fast the drinking water is poured and how considerably h2o is poured,” she stated.

The team also struggled with time constraints, one of the factors they did not fully automate the overall course of action. “We still have to have a human to grind the beans and switch on the kettle to boil the water, but in the long term, this could all be automatic.”

Over and above building an excellent cup of espresso, the group reported they learned fundamentals that will make them competitive for potential chances. “The earth is likely toward automation of much more procedures,” Tran mentioned. “Being ready to function on this now opens up far more doorways.”

Stated Yang: “I had no practical experience in robotics ahead of this, and it ignited my enthusiasm for coding once more. I have a whole lot of fascination in highly developed producing, which is getting additional and additional reliant on automation.”

Batter in All Shapes and Shades

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USC Viterbi’s Center for Undergraduate Investigation in Viterbi Engineering was launched in 2021 to give undergraduates mentorship and arms-on working experience in investigate labs. As section of CURVE, mechanical engineering pupils Justin Lockwood and Vineeth Rajesh sough to gain encounter in robotics—specifically, food stuff-related experience, which they felt posed an extra problem.

“As rookies, neither of us understood ROS,” Lockwood reported. Rajesh experienced to find out MATLAB and Lockwood had to understand Python—programming languages that allowed them to manipulate the robot’s program.

The primary obstacle in getting the Baxter robotic to make pancakes was figuring out how it could maintain and dispense the batter on to a griddle or pan, the pupils said.“We went by way of numerous 3D prototypes,” Rajesh stated. “Some had been as well large and also large for the robot’s arm to maintain and it would start out shaking.” The crew also needed to make absolutely sure that the robotic could differentiate between two separate colors (dispensers) of batter, so the robot could create designs. This demanded using MATLAB to different the colors and develop trajectories that have been equally spaced and didn’t overlap with every single other. For this, they experienced to evaluate the width of the batter coming out of the nozzles and post these in MATLAB.

An further problem was making confident the dispenser was foodstuff-protected. Given that the 3D printed product itself was not food stuff-protected, they made use of a piping bag as a reservoir to keep the batter.“It was a quite steep understanding curve the first pair of weeks,” Lockwood stated.

For Lockwood and Rajesh, it was not just robotics that they were diving headfirst into, but the notion of arms-on exploration and difficulty-solving. Reported Lockwood: “It was my initially-time at any time performing investigate like this, so I was fairly unfamiliar with the procedure. We broke down each individual challenge into smaller difficulties, and then worked to solve individuals one particular by a person.”

A further important lesson, Rajesh mentioned, was not getting scared to ask for support. Each and every university student was assigned a Ph.D. mentor as section of CURVE. The staff also relied on graduate learners and faculty at CAM for guidance, as effectively as their adviser, Gupta.

Image credit score: Avni Shah.

After two months, the team programmed Baxter to effectively fall batter in designs together with a bunny, smiley experience and typical “SC” letters using two individual batter dispensers and hues (cardinal and gold, naturally). If they have been to take the challenge further, they explained they’d check out to get the robotic to use its other hand to flip the pancake or increase chocolate chips. They also had been encouraged at the assumed of making use of AI for creativity—“What if we could have the robotic appear up with its own layout?” Rajesh mentioned.

Rajesh said a single of the major motives he selected CURVE was to obtain knowledge in AI and robotics. An early expertise as aspect of a Carnegie Mellon levels of competition he entered during significant school in Qatar sparked his fascination in robotics, even though operating on how to raise efficiency of wind turbines with a scientist in India confirmed his adore of mechanical engineering.

Lockwood acquired his engineering inspiration functioning on cars rising up in Bloomington, Minnesota. He claimed, “It’s really distinct that the way the world is likely, robotics is likely to be made use of more and a lot more in industries like manufacturing.”

Resource: UCS