Most logistics professionals see the forklift truck as an essential tool for moving pallets around a distribution center or loading trailers at the loading dock. However, a team of engineering students in Somerville, Mass., had a different application in mind when they purchased a used forklift online: providing the power plant for a six-legged rideable robot they call "Stompy."
The plan began taking shape in 2012 when students enrolled in a robotics class at Artisan's Asylum, a Boston-area community workshop and fabrication studio, chose the walking robot as their class project, according to the Project Hexapod blog.
They soon realized the vehicle would need a powerful engine to pump pressurized hydraulic fluid to all of its joints, so the group purchased a used Toyota FGC-45 forklift built in 1991, tore out the motor, and mounted it on the robot's insect-shaped steel frame.
The students said the propane-fueled motor was ideal both for its strength, with enough power to heft 10,000-pound loads in the warehouse, and for its six-hour runtime and simple refueling method. Soon, the 135-horsepower forklift motor had the 4,000-pound 18-foot-diameter robot moving through the test phase.
Outdoor tests using remote controls began in July. The students hope Stompy will carry its first human test-pilots this fall.
Now grown to a squad of 19 roboticists, engineers, designers, and fabricators, the student group has attracted industry sponsors like Barrett Technologies, Dalton Hydraulics, and Tompkins Industries. The group has raised funds through an online Kickstarter campaign and posts frequent video updates on its YouTube and Facebook pages.