My freshman year, I was fortunate enough to start working in a research lab during my very first semester of college. As a part of the Viterbi Fellows program, I was exposed to various different research labs on campus with undergraduate assistant openings, and the Interaction Lab seemed the most aligned with my interests, so I emailed the faculty advisor and started working the following week.
Since then, I have gotten to assemble robots for testing and studies, redesign existing ones to increase efficiency and lower cost, and create unique structures and specialized parts. My favorite part about working here is the freedom and trust I am given in my different projects, even as a freshman. Whether it is something as simple as soldering wires, or as complex as changing the design for a 3-D printed base to fit different motors, the staff trusts my work and gladly helps when I do have questions.
A project I recently finished was the aluminum structure pictured below mounting an Xbox Kinect sensor and web-cameras to a table. I had to figure out how to secure the Kinect and cameras to the end of the table with adjustable heights and widths and had a box of 8020 aluminum pieces and brackets to work with. I was free to do what I wanted and ended up designed a three-piece, 3-D printed bracket to hold the Kinect at the top and designed a way to assemble the rest of the frame without interfering with the power supply mounted underneath the table.
I am working in this lab again next year and am excited for the new projects I will get to work on!
Check out the lab’s website here: http://robotics.usc.edu/interaction/