David M. Zlotnicki programs a dual processor to control a robot’s motors using a wired glove. Photo by Larry D. Kauffman

When David M. Zlotnicki moves his hand side to side and up and down, a robotic arm dutifully follows.

Zlotnicki is wearing a “wired glove,” a black work glove that he’s outfitted with an accelerometer to sense the motion of his hand.

But the robot was not meant to be controlled that way.

Typically, a computer program controls the movements of the educational robot. To bypass the computer, Zlotnicki programmed a dual processor on a development board and then printed a circuit board to control the robot’s motors. The accelerometer on the glove monitors the glove’s orientation and sends the corresponding signal to the board driving the robot’s motors.

It was not an immediate success. It took more than 100 hours that stretched from evenings into early mornings in the college’s electronics and computer engineering technology facilities.

“David didn’t know how to do this project. He worked it out,” said Richard J. Calvert Jr., assistant professor of electronics and computer engineering technology, noting that industry seeks those who, like Zlotnicki, can work independently and take initiative.

The payoff

“The moment I saw everything was worth it was when I saw it operate successfully for the first time,” Zlotnicki said. “I was like: ‘OK, this is cool!’ Up to that point, I had a lot of failure. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Photo by Larry D. KauffmanWhy electronics?

The Oil City native acted and sang in community theater as a child, but in high school, he moved backstage, becoming a tech guru for the school’s drama productions.

“Running sound and light was really my introduction to electronics.”

What’s next?

Before his May 2019 graduation, he hopes to enhance the wired glove. “I want the robot to be able to move in several directions. I want it to be able to track my hand in 3-D space, follow my hand one-to-one. That’s going to be tricky.”

Beyond Penn College, he hopes for a career as an automation integrator, traveling to industrial facilities to establish automation systems.

See more “Penn College Family” profiles at family.pct.edu.