Revolutionizing robotics with a HOG

The stunningly simple robot designed by CURTIS BOIRUM ’09 MSmE ’11 has garnered widespread media attention. It includes two gimbaled wheels, a microprocessor, a wireless serial port, and a helicopter gyro on the bottom for stability control at high speeds.

A grad student’s simple design is turning heads around the world.

CURTIS BOIRUM ’09 MSME ’11 can trace his passion for mechanical engineering back to his childhood with a box of Legos and a few ill-fated construction projects.

Last year Boirum attached a hemispherical omnidirectional gimbaled (HOG) wheel onto a small Lego frame with two wheels to test his on-paper concept of a quick and maneuverable robot. The rubber HOG wheel spins rapidly, like a top, and when tilted slightly by a remote control, instantly changes the robot’s direction without slowing it down. The simple design requires no transmission and costs next to nothing to build.

The value is in the innovation. Documented research on this type of technology has not been done since the 1930s. Boirum believes his invention could lead to highly maneuverable wheelchairs, forklifts, or other moving machines utilized in factories or on aircraft carriers.

“The ultimate idea is that with enough computer control, this would be so maneuverable, so quick, that it could do things a person using a remote control couldn’t even make it do,” Boirum said. 

Since Boirum showed off his first HOG wheel robot at the RoboGames symposium in April, media spread the news worldwide about his agile creation.  

“I couldn’t believe all the different websites and magazines that picked it up, magazines that I’ve always read and thought, ‘Man, it would be really great to one day be featured in there,’” Boirum said. 

Dr. Julie Reyer, Boirum’s mechanical engineering professor, collaborated with him on the project and is leading the effort to secure a patent. “Having students like Curt who are enthusiastic about a project is exciting, especially when you realize an idea has potential to take us interesting places we haven’t been before. Fostering that drive is why we’re here,” Reyer said.

Boirum was hired by a top computer manufacturer and expects to soon begin a doctoral program in mechanical engineering. In the meantime, he continues development on his HOG wheel project and remains involved with the Central Illinois Robotics Club.

—Abby Rhodes

Science and ‘sextraversion’ — blog tells all

Psychology professor David Schmitt is credited with writing or co-writing more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Now as a blogger for Psychology Today, he has the opportunity to reach a vast new audience. Schmitt’s first two posts in June were What is Sexual Personality? and Sextraversion, which looked at sexually unfaithful personalities.

Schmitt, whose doctoral degree from the University of Michigan is in personality psychology, plans to post every few weeks. He was asked initially to blog for the magazine several years ago. “I decided to take them up on the offer this summer,” says Schmitt who joined the Bradley faculty in 1995. 


Read an earlier article about Schmitt and his study or his blog.

So far, several thousand people have read each of his posts. The response has been “mostly positive,” along with a few negative, Schmitt says. “Because I tend to discuss the science behind sexuality and to advocate for respecting sexual diversity, people who view sex as taboo or who believe there is only one ‘right way’ to be sexual tend to not like what I write,” he adds.

Schmitt is quoted frequently by national and international media on the topics of sexuality and “mate poaching.” Named a Caterpillar professor of psychology at Bradley in 2008, he founded the International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP) in 2000 and continues as its director. The ISDP is one of the largest cross-cultural research teams investigating how culture, personality, and gender work together to influence sexual attitudes and behaviors. More than 200 psychologists in nearly 60 countries supply data for the studies, which is then analyzed by Schmitt and a group of his students.

—Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77

Psi Chi wins national award

Bradley’s chapter of Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society, has received the Ruth Hubbard Cousins National Chapter Award. The award recognizes the chapter that best achieves the honor society’s purpose to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship, and to advance the science of psychology. To be eligible, chapters must achieve model chapter status, which Bradley has accomplished the last three years, then earn one of six regional awards. Bradley was the Midwest Regional Chapter Award winner in 2010. Bradley’s club was given $3,500, a plaque, and travel expenses for chapter president STEPHANIE ANDEL ’12 to accept the award at the 2011 American Psychological Association Conference August 4–7 in Washington, D.C. It is named for Ruth Hubbard Cousins, who led the honor society for 33 years. There are about 1,100 Psi Chi chapters around the world.