Hi! My name is Ike Mulder, and I joined Project MARCH as a part-time member in October. I am currently almost finished with my Bachelor Applied Mathematics. This is actually my second extracurricular activity: I was treasurer of the board of a fraternity (DSV Sint Jansbrug) last year. I acquired a lot of financial and business related knowledge and I was able to use my programming experience to automate some of the more tedious and hard tasks.
As the year came to an end I wanted to continue and expand my programming skill in a more technical environment. A friend of mine introduced me to Project March and my enthusiasm was sparked. The software that needs to be designed and implemented is complex and big, so this was a real challenge. So, after a few months of sorting all of Project March’s financial matters out, I have now switched to the Software & Control department.
Let me tell you a bit more about the Software & Control department. Our job is to make sure the exoskeleton moves in the right way; that the joints move in the correct direction with the correct speed without overshooting the desired destination, and that the total movement of individual joints simulates the regular walking movement (‘gait’) of a human. This Control is however not possible without Software running on the exoskeleton. In the backpack of the exoskeleton, a small computer is mounted who is in control of all the joints. This computer has to handle lots of communication between the individual parts and also has to compute complicated trajectories.
At the moment I’m working on the very first steps of setting up the computer for the new exoskeleton. While one would regularly install Windows or iOS on a computer, this one will probably run on Simulink Real-time. Simulink and its cousin Matlab are both great tools for engineers: they can perform complex matrix calculations and modelling while retaining an intuitive interface. During my studies I learned to use both of these, but to apply them in a real machine is something else. Next up is implementing and running some tests: we have already designed most of the software architecture, but our design relies somewhat on parallel processing. Before we implement everything, we should test whether what we want is viable in the first place – so I’ll return to the test bank now. Bye!