By Andy Choi
UC Davis engineering professor, Cheng together with his ex-graduate student, Graham Ryland, had established a robotics company in 2011. The National Science Foundation has presented the company with Phase II funding regarding small business innovation research program for developing a modular robot called ‘Mobot’.
For another two years, up to $500,000 will be granted to West Sacramento-based Barobo. Based on the company’s increased sales and dynamic venture capital, it will receive an additional $500,000 of matching funds.
According to Cheng, this modular robot "Mobot" will serve as an effective teaching tool for third grade students and beyond. This robotic tool can be used to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education among students.
Each Mobot module is composed of two central hinges and wheels at each end. A solo module can perform varied functions such as traveling around using its wheels, raising one end of its body, crawling like an inchworm, and swiveling.
The modules can be combined or integrated to create wheeled vehicles, humanoid, snakes or gorilla in varied designs for varied applications.
In order to promote Mobot in class rooms, Cheng and Barobo are currently interacting with the regional middle and high schools to demonstrate Mobot’s various functions and features. Students can create and program the robots with the help of laptops. Using 3-D printing, new prototype robot components can also be constructed.
The patented technology developed by Cheng and his co-worker has been licensed to Barobo. An NSF SBIR Phase I grant of $150,000 was presented to the innovators.
In addition, Cheng has raised the UC Davis K-14 Outreach Center for Computing and STEM Education (C-STEM), where C-STEM Day event will be hosted on May 5, 2012.