"Summer at Penn: Coding Flying Robots!": Quinn Wu on his summer at GRASP Lab in M&T for Life

Quinn Wu, from Palo Alto, California, is a member of the M&T Class of 2019. He is interested in studying Computer Science within Penn Engineering and Finance and Management in the Wharton School. Quinn spent his summer in the GRASP Lab in Kumar Lab, working with Ph.D student Yash Mulgaonkar to autonomously control and fly a "pico-size" micro UAV quadcopter. He wrote shares his experience in a recent post on M&T For Life, the "insider's guide to the Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania."


By: Quinn Wu | Posted 31 August 2015

Most students wouldn’t imagine spending the summer before college closed in a research lab, especially at their new college! Well, I flew 3000 miles across the country to beautiful Philadelphia where I spent my whole July in Levine 457 playing with “expensive flying toys”.

This summer, I performed research under the supervision of Professor Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering, in his Multi-Robot Systems Lab (MRSL), which creates and designs autonomous aerial and ground robots, as well as algorithms for robot swarms and bio-inspired behaviors, as part of the renowned GRASP lab. With Ph.D. student Yash Mulgaonkar, I used an existing Matlab framework and redesigned it in C++ with ROS integration to autonomously control and fly a “pico-size” micro UAV quadcopter with a motion capture camera system called Vicon...

The takeaway from this summer’s work was how interdisciplinary robotics can be ranging from mechanical design to electrical systems to computer programming, and how Professor Kumar’s lab has such a variety of projects that can be applied to real-world issues. For example, there could be a whole “swarm” of the tiny flying robots that could be sent into a hostile environment to carry out a mission that humans can not perform. There are large robots that are flown over farms and forests to map the area and analyze data, which would take farmers forever by themselves. Due to the Japanese earthquake, the lab sent a flying robot through damaged buildings to map the area and assess the damage, which is much more efficient than ground robots or rescue workers. If you’ve seen the TED talk, the robots can also play the James Bond theme when you need a little entertainment!