We were inspired by fencers' need for a dynamic practice tool. A member of our team, Margaret, is a varsity fencer. Currently most fencers only have access to a simple immobile target for solo practice, which does not provide a realistic training experience.
What it does
Fencer Bot incorporates wrist motions into a fencer's target practice routine. Fencer Bot also provides a useful feedback tool in the form of data from a Microsoft Kinect. The Kinect records body position, distance, and other vital information, which the fencer and coach can access after a workout to evaluate the fencer's form.
How we built it
The wrist movement is actuated by two servos which correspond to the two degrees of freedom (x,y). The servos are powered by an Arduino controller and a 9V battery. The weight of the fencing arm is supported by a wooden frame and a spring is used to alleviate the weight on the servos. The Fencer Bot has a soft wrist cuff for target area to reduce damage potential to the fencer's weapon.
Challenges we ran into
We found that the weight of the bell-guard box (which protects the servos) was too heavy for the servos to support on their own. To counteract this challenge, we added a support spring which allowed the arm to return to a neutral position after being displaced.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Getting the fencing arm to support its own weight and proving that our servo coupling idea worked were proud moments for us. We are so excited that our idea went from a mere concept to a working physical object in the span of less than a day!
What we learned
Since we are all mechanical engineers, most of the software parts of this project were challenging for us. We learned about Processing, Visual Studio, the Microsoft Kinect SDK, and much more, and we went on GitHub more times for this project than ever before.
What's next for Fencer Bot
In the future, we'd like to incorporate a sensor on the wrist to alert the fencer when they have successfully scored a touch. We would also like to replace the continuous-motion servos with single-turn servos for ease of position control, and make the wrist and bell guard components smaller. Furthermore, it would be fantastic to incorporate some level of autonomy using data from the Microsoft Kinect so the fencer can practice against a pseudo-sentient robotic opponent.