I’m not sure what you’re favorite summer job was during high school but I bet it wasn’t nearly as cool as Ze’ev Klapow’s. He’s one of the student interns at Willow Garage and this summer he got to spend his time hanging out with the company’s most popular robots. Klapow developed a prototype IR sensor for the Texai, a telepresence bot, so it could detect and avoid ledges. No more falling to its death whenever it neared a set of stairs or other sharp drop. He also developed code for the PR2 research robot that allows it to calibrate its sensors with almost no outside help. Klapow’s work is available as part of the Robot Operating System (ROS), free for anyone else to use, improve, and adapt. Check out Ze’ev explaining his work in the video below. Robotic suicide avoidance and auto-calibration, not bad for an intern.
I enjoy writing about Willow Garage mostly because I like their robots and open source philosophy, but I’m becoming more and more enamored with their work ethic as well. They get a lot of effort out of their engineering staff, as evidenced by their fast and furious ‘hackathon‘ programming sessions we’ve covered this summer. It’s clear that they get just as much dedication from their students/interns as well. Yes, Klapow’s results aren’t mind-blowing, and I’m sure for a mature robotics engineer these tasks would be relatively straight forward. But for a high school student this is top notch work, and valuable too. Klapow’s code is now available to all the research groups using the PR2s around the world, and will be a part of ROS forever. His work with the Texai is equally useful and might prove valuable if Willow Garage ever ends up bringing the telerobot to market. Kudos to Klapow for these two successes and kudos to Willow Garage for its dedication to the robotics community, whether it be through open source code or training future engineers one summer at a time.
[screen capture and video credit: Willow Garage]
[source: Willow Garage]