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The Stair-Climber: My Idea for the Scholarship Contest Answered

My name is Brian Smith and I am a recent graduate of Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. I have done research in the field of robotics in the past for science competitions. I will be attending Georgia Tech beginning in the fall. What I would like to do with the iRobot Create is simply to extend the original functionality of the Roomba by allowing the robot to both scale and vacuum a carpeted staircase. From a functional perspective, ideally the robot would clean the first floor of a a two story house for some predetermined period of time, and then climb the stairs, cleaning them on ascent. The robot would then clean the second floor of the house for a predetermined period of time before descending the stairs once more to recharge and then begin the cycle again. As far as implementation is concerned, the first step of the cleaning process is quite straightforward; the robot will clean the first floor randomly using the same or similar algorithms as the Roomba. After the predetermined cleaning period for the first floor has elapsed, things get a bit more complicated. The robot will then seek out an infrared beacon marking the base of the staircase to begin ascending/cleaning the stairs. For this task, the mechanics of the system will be just as important as the software. Essentially, the robot must square itself with the first stair at which point it will deploy its equipped "stair rails" which creates a ramp which the robot can use to ascend the first stair. The robot then collects the rails, cleans the first step, and redeploys the rails to ascend the second step. This process continues for each step until the robot reaches the second floor of the house. The then robot resumes random cleaning of the second floor. By similar principles, the robot then descends the stairs and finds its recharging station on the first floor. Although I feel that this project will be challenging, I also feel that it is reasonably within my capabilities to be completed by the deadline.


> (remembering not to fall down the stairs), why not? isn't that the easiest way to get down? :) those things are pretty durable (sorta) ;)

That is usually the fastest way, falling down the stairs. One of my nieces used to sit on the wooden stairs and then just slide bump down each of the wooden steps. My mom and I would just shake our heads. Owwee. I love this idea and someone headed for Georgia Tech probably has a good chance of solving it. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "rails" tho. Those diagrams my coolblades look quite interesting. I'm thinking if you got stairs they gotta be cleaned at some point. And if the maid isn't gonna do it then let the Roomba. One could just buy two Roombas but the stairs still have to be cleaned. I don't have much in the way of stairs and if I have a maid she/he musta got lost in all the dust bunnies cause I ain't seen her/him. Nor have I paid her/him.

imho, also, the tank treads are probably your best bet. they're built into the robot (no house modifications is a plus) and they are good at scaling most household terrain (for those of us who have odd carpet to hardwood to tiling ect transitions.


11 years ago

My stair climbing concept is a bit similar to those listed by Coolblades, but slightly different, I have included a CG render of the method. The animation is imperfect, and real-world physics DO NOT APPLY (just a little warning.)


11 years ago

Hi Brian, I was intrigued by your idea, so much I started giving some thought as to physical situation. I don't want to shoot down your idea, so please don't take it that way, but there are a few things that are important to mention. The Roomba, as well as the Create are both at least 13 inches in diameter. Your standard house stair has a run of 10". Because the wheels of the roomba are so close to the outside of the robot, it wouldn't be able to turn around and may not even be able to move on a stair. This isn't to say that you wouldn't be able to have it at least sit on the stair. The Create itself (to my knowledge) doesn't contain the Roomba vacuuming algorithms (or the vacuum for that matter), so the best I can figure is you would need to have the Create lead the Roomba around and send it signals for vacuuming. Again, I don't want to dissuade you, but I don't think a rails deployment system is going to work, Assuming that we're talking about laying down a pair of rails for the create to roll down. What I think might work is a pair of tank treads with a length of about the Create (for a 10 inch run x 7 inch rise), which would cover the gap between stair point to stair point (the Hypotenuse of the rise and run of the stair). That would at least get you down and up the stairs. On the other hand, if you have a plan, forget everything I said. Whatever you come up with, I'd love to see your final project (and I will, considering that it'll be here on instructables.) and I wish you luck!

Very good point(s)! Obviously we see the value of teamwork here, with you clearly seeing things that I have overlooked. My stairs measured in at 11" each. Perhaps the objective may change to merely scaling the stairs and vacuuming only the two floors. Unless...umm, how much are we allowed to modify the Create for this challenge?

> Perhaps the objective may change to merely scaling the stairs and vacuuming only the two floors.
. I'd be pretty impressed with "only" that. You'll still have to decide when to change floors, find the stairs, climb, return to cleaning mode (remembering not to fall down the stairs), decide to change floors, etc, etc.
. If you can climb with the body following a straight path (doesn't bob up and down as it walks), that would be tres kewl !
. You may be able to climb without much computing power if you're good with gears/levers/cams.

Its already been patented. (I remember seeing it before...)

Potentially you could do anything you want. I think practically though, you'd want to stick within not actually altering the physical form of the create, and instead building upon it. The only problem I can see with the altering of the robot is if, for some reason you cannot enter it into the contest. If you have a scholarship robot, it must be returned if you don't enter.

I like the idea, I've seen a few types of stair climbers. Here are a few concepts that I envisioned a while ago. I have seen these concepts in action and they work pretty well. Of course sensors would also be required for each. The first one is a slow robot and it requires a motor on each wheel The second one is based on a COG shifting robot (center of gravity). It would swing it's whole body over the stairs and use a large weight to balance itself so it doesn't tip over. It could adapt to different stair sizes. The third one would require a decent amount of torque and would climb the stairs with brute force but it would probably require the fewest sensors and moving parts. The irobot would have to run on treads rather than wheels though.

Stair Climber.GIFStair Climber3.GIFStair Climber2.GIF

. That's a great idea!
. I'd be worried about the amount of power required to climb. Since it's carrying enough power to run a vacuum pump, that may not be a problem.
. I think aarone is right on two points: 1) climbing/navigation will probably be very difficult and 2) don't let that stop ya.
. If nothing else, it will be a valuable experience. I know LOTS of stuff that doesn't work. :)