Robotics and Mechatronics Lab (RMLab)


RMLab: Robotics & Mechatronics Lab


Department of Mechanical Engineering
Goodwin Hall, Room 465
635 Prices Fork Road (0238)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Dr. Pinhas Ben-Tzvi

Associate Professor

The objectives of the Robotics and Mechatronics Laboratory (RML) are to:

  • conduct advanced fundamental and applied research in robotics and mechatronics
  • educate at undergraduate and graduate levels in the fields of robotics and mechatronics
  • transfer university-based technology to the market place
  • collaborate with industry and government to serve their needs


December 2016 | Journal Papers Published: Prof. Ben-Tzvi and his doctoral student Wael Saab have published the following peer-reviewed journal publication: Saab, W., Ben-Tzvi, P., “A Genderless Coupling Mechanism with 6-DOF Misalignment Capability for Modular Self-Reconfigurable Robots“, Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics, Transactions of the ASME, Vol. 8, Issue 6, pp. 061014: 1-9, December 2016.

November 2016 | Research Grant Awarded: Prof. Ben-Tzvi received a new research grant from the U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) through a contract from RE2 Inc., a Robotics company situated in Pittsburgh, PA. The team consisting of RE2 Inc. (leads the Phase II SBIR), Virginia Tech, and Lockheed Martin was tasked to develop automated robotic technologies that can assist combat medics in maneuvering, treating, and evacuating wounded soldiers under hostile conditions. Learn More…


  • Laboratory

    The Robotics and Mechatronics Lab (RML) at Virginia Tech is a well established and rapidly expanding research center on VT’s main campus located on the main level Randolph Hall at 460 Old Turner St., Blacksburg, VA. Currently, the lab accommodates 20 workstations for researchers with personal storage at each station. It also contains space where researchers can integrate systems and conduct experiments. Workstations are equipped with quad-core Dell/HP computers.

    RML currently hosts 6 full-time Doctoral students and several Masters students. The graduate students also have access to full-time electrical and software support engineers and several undergraduate and local high school students that participate in research activities inside the lab throughout the year.

  • Computers and Software

    RML has 15 quad-core workstations for general modeling, simulations, and day-to-day use. For more complicated simulations and analyses, the lab has a multi-purpose multi-core 64-bit computer station. The computers operate Linux and Windows platforms and are loaded with licensed software necessary for our research needs, including Matlab, Mathematica, C++ and C development environments, MathCAD, Maple, MSC ADAMS and related Toolkits, Abaqus, SolidWorks, ProEngineer, COMSOL, ANSYS, and LabView. Additional software is also available when needed from VT’s College of Engineering license server. Furthermore, the lab is located on the same with the machine shop. In addition to the Design, Instructional and computer Labs, computational clusters for even more advanced simulations are available.

  • Major Equipment

    RML has the necessary equipment and resources to carry out experimental work in robotics and mechatronics from preliminary mechanical, electrical and software design, to fabrication/assembly/integration, to full-scale implementation and testing. Available electrical equipment includes a variety of diagnostics and measurement equipment, including data acquisition systems, signal spectrum analyzers, camers, signal generators, power supplies, multi-meters and oscilloscopes. The lab also has an ElevenLab Printed Circuit Board (PCB) prototyping machine to fabricate circuit boards for the prototypes of the electromechanical components for experiments developed under various research projects. In terms of existing robotic systems, the laboratory currently houses several cable and rod-driven continuum robotic test platforms, a fully integrated hybrid-mobile robot system, seven Sensable OMNI PHANTOM haptic interfaces, one Novit Falcon haptic interface, two mobile robot hexapods instrumented for either teleopration or autonomous operation, and a T-Rex 700 RC helicompter.

  • Machine Shop

    RML and the Machine Shop are located on the same level. Tthe shop contains a variety of equipment for general and specialized machining, including computer numerical control (CNC) lathes, CNC milling machines, drill presses, a laser cutter and a rapid prototyper. The machine shop is also equipped with precision manufacturing equipment, including the AgieCharmilles Cut 20 Wire Cut Electric Discharge Machine (EDM) and the AgieCharmilles Drill 11 hole drill EDM. The machine shop is used for manufacturing experimental hardware for prototype work (as needed), and is available for research projects.

  • Vicon Motion Capture System

    RML has access to VT’s Motion Capture facility for testing and characterizing various integrated robotic systems.

  • Library

    Virginia Tech provides its faculty and students access to a wide cross-section of high-quality journals and conference proceedings, allowing the students to stay current on state-of-the-art advances. Any book or paper to which students do not have access may be easily ordered through the Interlibrary Loan service and digitally or physically delivered.

Research Activities

  • Biomimetic Robotic Tails for Stabilizing and Maneuvering Legged Robots

    This National Science Foundation supported research focuses on the following aims:

    • Studying methods in which a continuum tail can be utilized to stabilize and maneuver legged robots.
    • Creating task planning algorithms to generate tail trajectories that provide the required forces and moments to stabilize and maneuver.
    • Estimating the continuum tail dynamic configuration utilizing integrated sensing.
    • Designing controllers to actuate the tail to follow the planned tail trajectory utilizing real-time continuum tail shape estimate sensor feedback.
    • Implementing a full-scale robotic tail experimental test platform for ‘hardware-in-the-loop’ simulations of overall system behavior using virtual simulations of biped and quadruped systems.

  • An Exoskeleton Glove Mechanism with Haptics Feedback

    This ongoing research focuses on the following aims:

    • Development of novel design of a haptic glove mechanism that is a lightweight, portable and self-contained mechatronic system that fits on a bare hand and provides haptic force feedback to each finger of the hand without constraining their movement.
    • Development and implementation of novel on-board wireless real-time sensor/actuator control interfaces for HRI/HCI applications.
    • Optimization of the mechanical design of the in haptic glove for the purpose of enhancing the workspace of the mechanism and maximizing the force transmission ratio of the link mechanism.
    • Development of a novel method to build an accurate human hand model which includes finger length and joints location with this glove.
    • Applications include: rehabilitation for hand orthosis, medical training, and mobile robot teleportation using this haptic glove with force feedback to augment telepresence.

  • A Mechatronics Measurement System for Ship Air Wake Studies with UAVs

    In collaboration with Prof. Murray Snyder and the US Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD), this ongoing research focuses on the following aims:

    • Development of Ship Air Wake measurement methods using instrumented UAVs and automated data post-processing
    • Development of algorithms for pilot input compensation using Back-Propagation Neural Networks (BPNN)
    • Development of Telemetry System for real-time Air Wake measurement and processing (during flight ops)

  • Modular and Reconfigurable Mobile Robotics on Unstractured Terrain

    The ongoing specific aims of this research are to:

    • Investigate a new docking paradigm that exhibits three-dimensional rigid, reversible, non-back-drivable docking functionalities. This will enable modular mobile robotic reconfiguration on rough terrain, which would characterize the operation of such co-robots. Non-back-drivability is required to avoid unintended modules’ disconnection after assembly.
    • Explore omni-directional mobility mechanisms that can provide translation along three orthogonal axes interchangeably to enable docking between co-robots on rough terrain. The mechanism will further serve for enhanced mobility of the co-robots on rough terrain.
    • Examine optimal dynamics as the foundations for exploring algorithms that enable mobile co-robots to congregate in grouped proximity, align axes, actively dock and co-operate on rough and unstructured terrains. This entails the investigation of a path planning algorithm subject to co-robotic modules’ dynamics, as well as an adaptive docking and alignment algorithm subject to the statics and the omni-directional kinematics of the co-robotic modules. Subsequent investigations will include shape formation and synchronization of actuation for cooperative mobility and manipulation
    • Validate the proposed research aims on a novel experimental platform for omni-directional and reconfigurable co-robotic mobility and manipulation.

  • Wireless Hybrid Mobile Robot System

    • Development of novel design paradigm of a hybrid mobile robot system with compounded locomotion and manipulation capability in order to enhance robot mobility and maximize functionality in field operations.
    • Optimization of the mechanical design of the hybrid robotic system through dynamic simulations using ADAMS and mathematical modeling.
    • Development and implementation of novel on-board wireless real-time sensor/actuator control interfaces for the hybrid mobile robot.
    • Construction and integration of a prototype of the hybrid mobile robot system including the development of a computer architecture and control system design.
    • Experimental setup, testing and calibrations of the integrated system.

  • Linkage Mechanism (LMMR)

    This research presents a mobile robot that achieves autonomous climbing and descending of stairs. The robot uses sensors and embedded intelligence to achieve the task. The reconfigurable tracked mobile robot has the ability to traverse obstacles by changing its tracks configuration. Algorithms have been further developed for conditions under which the mobile robot would halt its motion during the climbing process when at risk of flipping over. Technical problems related to the implementation of some of the robot functional attributes are presented, and proposed solutions are validated and experimentally tested. The experiments illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed approach to autonomous climbing and descending of stairs.

  • Development of Dispensing System for Microdrops Generation in Microarray Applications

    • Development of a piezo-actuated dispensing system for microdrops generation with real-time closed loop pressure control to generate droplets with very high accuracy (up to several picoliters) in order to achieve very high-density microarray printing capability.
    • Finite Element Modeling and Analysis using ANSYS for design optimization and performance assessment of the system and mathematical modeling and simulations using Matlab and Simulink.
    • Development of control techniques using LabVIEW to achieve high accuracy and high throughput dispensing.
    • Integration of a vision-based testing equipment to experimentally assess the accuracy and repeatability of the microdroplet generator and to calibrate it.

Laboratory address and students offices:

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Goodwin Hall, Room 465
635 Prices Fork Road (0238)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
635 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061