HP Lab Policies
Information for Undergraduates/MEng
Biorobotics and Locomotion Laboratory
Faculty advisor: Andy Ruina, ruina@cornell.edu
Lab manager: Jason Cortell, jbc2@cornell.edu


Introduction and general information


Projects concern the coordinated movement, particularly locomotion, of people, animals, or machines. Some projects involve construction and/or simulation of walking robots with human-like gaits. Others include muscle performance laws, biomechanics of various sports, and human-powered machines. Additional projects of mutual interest will be considered.


Freshmen to MEng to PhD students welcome.


3 credit minimum if for credit; 10 hours per week minimum work.


Can satisfy engineering distribution requirement, writing requirement, senior design requirement, or M-Eng project requirement.


Introductory meetings are held at the start of the semester.


You must have or develop some of the following skills: machining/fabrication, computer simulation/mathematical modeling, microcontroller programming, control electronics, experimental design, data collection, oral communication, and report writing. We will help you develop those which you need but do not yet have.


At least 2 semesters commitment is strongly desired.

You must be highly self-motivated, persevering, tenacious, resourceful, independent, and responsive to guidance. You will rarely be told exactly what to do on a day-to-day basis, but you will be expected to follow advice that is given and extrapolate from it.


Grades will be based on periodic reports, presentations, contribution to discussion, net result of semester’s research, and on the utility and clarity of the final report. Note: the minimum hours requirement is for a passing grade but hours are not correlated to your grade in any other way.


Joining the lab       1) Come to the lab introductory meeting or contact Andy Ruina (ruina@cornell.edu) if this is not possible.  
2) Submit an application by email.                                    
3) If your application for project credit is accepted, go to the ME department office and ask to take ME 4900 (undergraduates) or ME 6900 (M-Eng) for n (3 or more) credits. The S/U option is available if it fits your requirements.                                    
4) Submit an application(s) for research funding for which you are eligible.
5) For engineering undergrads, the on-line undergraduate grant application) is largely the same as the lab application in the Application file here, to save time. Other students should check their college’s web site or contact their dean’s office to learn about grant options. Receiving a grant is not a requirement for lab participation.


Work load                 Successful projects only happen when people work consistently hard for the whole semester. Last minute rushes have never saved a lagging project. For three credits, plan to spend at least 10 hours per week, every week, on the project.


Work sessions        Several weekly work sessions will be scheduled, each 4 to 6 hours long. Times will be announced at the introductory meeting and by e-mail. For credit or pay, you are required to attend one or more of these sessions, for a total of at least 6 hours per week. If your schedule does not permit this level of commitment yet, you are still encouraged to attend meetings and spend time in the lab, learning and helping with other projects. You can then do a project another semester.


Reports                     Your reports should be written to communicate clearly what you were trying to do and what you succeeded at doing. They should also include useful information you have collected or developed so that future students can learn from your work. Without a report, your task or project is not complete. It is the quality of the   report that determines whether your work has lasting value to future lab projects. One section of the report should detail all spending (what purchased, where, and for how much money).

                                    Save a copy of the final report for your records send in it .pdf form to Andy Ruina (ruina@cornell.edu). 

                                    The cover of your final report should have a title, the names of all your co-workers, the date of the report, your local address and phone number, your permanent address and phone number, your year in school and your department, and the number of credits you are earning for the project.

                                    With your final report also hand in copies of your presentations, your weekly task reports, and your lab notes, all in .pdf format.

                                    Allow at least 1 week for grading of the final report. Discussing drafts of the final report well before the end of the semester is advised.


Presentations          From time to time each person will give a prepared presentation of 15 to 20 minutes of length about their semester’s work. This can use overheads, computer projection, or other appropriate media.

                                    You may also be asked to give a talk and/or a poster demonstration of your work in progress to the Dean and to funders of undergraduate research.


Safety first:               1) Always wear safety glasses when using power tools, and any hand tools involving hammering or cutting.  Additional safety equipment (goggles, gloves, masks, ear protection, etc.) is required for some tools and chemicals.

2) Students must attend Right-To-Know chemical training before beginning work on projects.

3) Unlock doors into the lab or machine shop if you are working with power tools or other dangerous equipment. This may mean blocking the door open.

4) Special permission is needed to use the T&AM machine shops (319 and 321 Kimball).


Keep neat                 Keep things neat every time you use the lab. Plan to spend time every week maintaining and improving the lab in ways that are not necessarily connected with your projects.

                                    Return all tools to their proper location. Return all hardware and materials to their proper places.

                                    Vacuum and/or dust up debris.

                                    Any shelf, tabletop, or system of storage that is in disorder should be arranged as it was intended, or improved.

                                    All lab tools should be engraved with the words “Ruina Lab” and have a yellow stripe painted on them. If it’s not labeled, label it.


No borrowing          No tools, supplies, books, or reports can be borrowed without the specific verbal permission of Andy Ruina or Jason Cortell. If you receive permission, you will be instructed in how to sign out the item.


Lab computers       These are intended for Biorobotics Lab project work only. Personal use should not extend beyond a quick check of e-mail or headlines, at sites of known reliability. File backup is your responsibility; the hard drives may be erased at any time. Under no circumstances should you download or install any software, unless you have specific permission to do so. No IM, iTunes, BitTorrent, etc.


Lab key                     Don’t give the lab key to anyone. You should know everyone you see in the lab and they should know you. If you don’t know them, tell them who you are, what you are doing, and ask them the same. Do not assume that everyone in the lab belongs there. If anyone abuses the lab in a way that you could have prevented you are responsible also.


Lab notes                 Keep track of lab activities in your lab notes. Each time you work in the lab write a dates and times worked entry, with a brief description of what you did and what your plans are. These should eventually be converted to .pdf form, to turn in at the end of the year, and ideally would start off in electronic form. Include details and observations you find interesting or important even if they are not directly related to your project.


Your space               You may be assigned a drawer or shelf space in the lab. Put your name and campus phone number on the outside as well as the name of your project and the semester/year. Store all project materials in this place when you are not actively working on it. If this is not feasible and your project needs to stay set up on a workbench, unattended, put a sign up with your name, the date, and the length of time it needs to be set up (or it may be cleaned up while you are gone).


Weekly meetings   These will be for 1 - 2 hours each week. Attendance is required.


Buying things         If you need tools or materials for a project, first check with the lab manager(Jason Cortell) or other students – we may have them already. If not, identify the specific items that you need, and an appropriate vendor. The university stockrooms and the Campus Store are the most convenient, since they are close by and you can buy items yourself by giving the appropriate account number, your name, the lab address (306 Kimball), and the lab phone number(255-7108).  We will be ordering regularly from industrial and electronics supply houses (McMaster-Carr, Digi-Key, etc.),allowing a huge variety of items to be obtained within a few days.  See Jason Cortell to get your items on the list. For more expensive and specialized items, other vendors may offer lower prices or more selection. In general, you will not be reimbursed if you buy something for the lab with cash or personal credit card, due to Cornell accounting rules.




Questions?              If you have a question – ask! Help is available. If there is still a problem, bring it up with the lab manager or in a lab meeting.