Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Robot Baseball: “Philliebot” To Toss First Pitch

April 20th, 2011 / in Research News / by Erwin Gianchandani

The one-armed, three-wheeled robot will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Wednesday, April 20, 2011, game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers as part of Science Day festivities (image courtesy The Associated Press).

Presidents, performers, athletes, public servants — and now “Philliebot”?

That’s right — a one-armed, three-wheeled robot that can control the speed and direction of its “pitches” will enter the ranks of preeminence today when it throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a Phillies-Brewers baseball game at 1:05pm EDT. It will be the highlight of a series of activities that are part of Philadelphia’s Science Day at the Ballpark.

The robot was designed by engineering students Jordan Brindza and Jamie Gewirtz at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. From yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

You might think PhillieBot does the same thing as those machines that spit out baseballs at batting cages. But that’d be like describing Le Bec-Fin as a place to grab a snack.


The robot’s computer brain can be infinitely tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory, and its arm is a sleek, programmable instrument that also can be used in surgical and manufacturing applications. Moreover, PhillieBot can move.


The engineers started with a Segway, one of those motorized, two-wheeled vehicles sometimes used by tourists and police patrols. They lopped off the top handlebar portion and replaced it with the robotic arm, made by Barrett Technology Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. They added a third wheel for stability.


On top of the arm, the engineers attached a “hand” – initially a store-bought plastic scoop used to play jai-alai. But by game time Wednesday, the plan is to have replaced the plastic hand with a lighter, stronger carbon-fiber model made by Christian Moore, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering.


Finally, just underneath the hand, the group attached a pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide at just the right instant to snap the wrist forward and release the ball.

It’s certainly a first! Read much more about “Philliebot” in the in-depth Philadelphia Inquirer article published yesterday. And click “Read More” below to see a video of “Philliebot” — and a companion robot batter — warming up for its Wednesday debut.

Be sure to catch highlights of the first pitch later today!

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)

Robot Baseball:  “Philliebot” To Toss First Pitch

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