View Full Version : Robotics Engineering Lab -- help me design it

07-31-2011, 11:44 AM
In my WIP, I have a character who is a programming genius.
The school he attends is an exclusive, super-expensive academy and this is set in the future (approximately 2035) so there's a bit of leeway here.

At one point in the story, he's working on programming a robot for a project at school. The robot he is working in is an all terrain scout robot. The robot itself is mostly fabricated; he's working at perfecting the AI.

I imagine that the room used to fabricate the robot would also be used to test it. I've looked at some engineering labs so I'm imagining that the walls are lined with workbenches. The tech in the school is advanced so there's probably a bunch of wireless tablets as well as interactive touch screens for notes/collaboration.

The scene that I need this for is less concerned with the technical details surrounding the robot and more about the details for the room itself. What type of flooring should there be? How big should the room be, at minimum? What types of tools I can/should semi-realistically put in the room that may be within reach though not being used right at the moment? What type of safety equipment there may be accessible in case of an accident? What type of first aid kit would normally be in the vicinity? Is there anything else that I should be considering?

Thanks in advance.

Mac H.
07-31-2011, 12:30 PM
Here's some shots from an engineering lab doing exactly that:


If you jump to the 1:45 mark here:


.. you can see another setup - lots of cable gantries to provide power - harnesses so the robot can totally collapse without causing damage, etc.

I'd also want to cover the internal politics of the lab ... for realism I'd have the team developing the garbage sorting robotics always grumbling about how they are leading with successful realworld products - but everyone only cares about the shiny cool new stuff.

There would be a plenty of hand-drawn signs that were meant to be temporary - but have been used for the last five years ago ... 'Uncalibrated - Do not use' (which everyone just ignores) - 'Setup for Demo - DO NOT TOUCH' etc.

I'm guessing the fabrication area would be separate to the testing area .. sure you'd have a few benches to make tweaks or fix problems .. but the main manufacture would be done elsewhere. Otherwise everytime someone powers up the lathe everyone would be driven mad.

There would definitely be a collection of nuts & bolts that has been there for a while but nobody wants to throw out - because it definitely came from something important - but nobody remembers what.


07-31-2011, 06:28 PM
There will also most likely be a refrigerator for the students to stick their lunches in, and a table with a coffee pot/sugar/creamer packets, and piles or a drawer full of ketchup packets, salt packets, etc from various nearby restaurants, extra straws and chopsticks, etc.

Then you really need to start finding the little details that will make it realistic. If they're wiring their own robot, they probably have a wire rack with spools of different grades of wire, and a rolling toolbox or some kind of shelving full of little drawers with tools, spare small parts (connectors, etc). There would be a soldiering station. If this is future-tech, they might have a circuit board printing/manufacturing machine-- in general school labs can't afford something like this now for their limited production so boards are usually ordered by a company that does one-offs and small production runs.

For robotics the school would need to have a good machine shop (sheet metal cutters, and such), though this would probably be in a different part of the building/school from the actual robotics lab. It would be used by several departments.

The lab would probably have several test stands for components -- engines, displays, complicated joints and the like might be tested separately, first, before being integrated into the robot.

And then the really individual/personal details:

For example, our design lab had drop ceilings with those styrofoam-like panels, and there were always about twenty wooden pencils stuck up there by the points, waiting to fall. Why? Because design students brainstorming at 2am find it amusing to throw pencils at the ceiling to see if they'll stick :-)

If the lab space is large, there might be a ping pong table or fusball table or something similar off in a corner for the student to let off steam.

--Just some ideas.