HOPPY brings robot design to life for undergrads


Taylor Tucker

Assistant professor João Ramos recently developed a new design project for his course, “Robot Dynamics and Control” (ME 446). As the course has historically been theory-heavy, Ramos decided to bring in a hands-on activity to give the students a more well-rounded introduction to controlling robots in the real world.

“I developed a kit for a robot that can emulate a kangaroo,” Ramos said. “The idea is that students build the kit throughout the semester.” 

Graphic of HOPPY robot design
Graphic of HOPPY robot design
To produce the kit for “HOPPY,” the hopping robot, Ramos, his TAs, and ECE lab instructor Dan Block used simulations for a lot of the development work. They later made the simulator available so that students had access to all of HOPPY’s codes and could manipulate its parameters, equations of motion, and more.

“I thought about trying to do interesting, friendly competitions among students that motivate them to push the limits of the hardware,” said Ramos, who envisions having students compete in categories such as the fastest or the most energy-efficient robots. 

Although his first deployment of the kit was limited by the COVID-19 outbreak, Ramos received an overwhelmingly positive response from his students. He is now working on documentation to make the low-cost kit open source so that other universities can use it for their classes.

“It was a really fun semester to put all this together and have the students working on the robots,” Ramos said.