The University Outreach Program

Rice University haptic paddle servo drive lab

In their college years, some students begin to take interest in robotics and motion control. As cliché as it may sound, the students of today are the innovators of tomorrow.

In order to better facilitate innovation in our youth, ADVANCED Motion Controls has proudly run its own University Outreach program since 2004. For 15 years, we've supplied servo drives to university students at free or discounted rates. As we all know, there is nothing college students love more than free stuff. We’ve also worked with professors and donated equipment for students’ labs.

How it works

free Servo drives in university outreach inventoryServo drives are awarded by members of ADVANCED Motion Controls’ marketing department, all of whom are degreed engineers. To get in contact with us, a student or professor needs to fill out and submit our University Outreach sponsorship form. The form asks for information about the project so that we can have a decent understanding of it, make recommendations if necessary, and confirm that it fits within our parameters for contributing. Once we’ve reviewed and approved the project, we reply to student or professor with our offer.

We have a refurbished inventory of products that we give out free for educational purposes. Due to ISO regulations, we can’t sell returned products, even if they haven’t been used and are fully functional, so many of these products end up in our refurbished inventory for University Outreach. If a student is looking for drives that are not in our refurbished inventory, we supply new products at a discounted rate. In return, we ask that students make sure to recognize AMC’s contributions and keep us updated on the status of their project.

The Projects

Over the years, we’ve contributed to hundreds of projects by university students. The amazing projects that come out of this program are one of our main motivations for continuing it for so many years. Here is a quick look over just a few of the projects we've been involved with over the years.

Haptic Paddle

Haptic Paddle servo drive university projectADVANCED Motion Controls is full of people who went to engineering school, so we love to enrich the experience of young engineers as much as possible. This is one of the reasons why we love the Haptic Paddle project from Rice University, for which we supplied several brushed dc servo drives. This project was integrated into the Modeling Dynamic Systems lab for the university’s mechanical engineering students.

While the equipment used may appear simple, it’s used as an effective learning tool for understanding degrees of freedom, laws of inertia, operational amplifiers, and control systems. The lab has become a staple of their engineering program and has inspired similar labs in other institutions across the United States.

Robotic Basketball Throwing Arm powered by Servo DriveBasketball Throwing Arm

Projects are for use outside of the lab as well. One of the most recent projects we supported was a robotic basketball throwing arm from Penn State Altoona. Their two-link motorized arm was designed to make 15-foot shots mimicking the throwing technique used by professional basketball players. Using an AMC drive, provided motor, a fabricated gearbox, and a 3D-printed hand, they constructed a rig that outperformed their goal of 90% successful shots.


RHex robot with 6 servo drivesMany other projects are designed for experimental purposes. When the DARPA funded RHex hexapedal robot project made its way to the University of Pennsylvania, its students used ADVANCED Motion Controls’ servo amplifiers to bring their robot to life. Each leg is powered by an AMC digital servo drive.

While RHex is designed to be an all-terrain reconnaissance robot for search and rescue and other serious tasks, we can’t help but admire how fun it is to watch the little guy run and jump around on its six legs.

W8X servi driven exercise platformW8X

Some projects we’ve sponsored are prototypes for devices that will later be commercialized. For example, the W8X exercise platform was a project that was started by a group of innovative students at MIT using an ADVANCED Motion Controls servo drive. It has since gone into production and was showcased at the 2019 LA Fit Expo. Its marketed as a whole gym in a box, and with the range of exercises one can do with servo-powered resistance, it certainly lives up to the reputation.


Other projects are meant to make a difference, as was the case with the Universite de Sherbrooke. Their project, ExodUS was designed for restoring some autonomy to a fellow student who was rendered quadriplegic after a tragic surfing accident. Together, the team built a prototype for a wheelchair mounted exoskeletal arm.

Since then, ADVANCED Motion Controls has supplied digital servo drives for several projects from Sherbrooke, some currently ongoing.

Flying Nimbus

Riding flying NimbusAnd some projects are just plain cool. The Flying Nimbus from MIT was one man’s work of creating a new motorized skateboard alternative from what started as a pile of old parts. This kind of ingenuity is what inspired the university outreach program in the first place. When the servo drive he initially using for tests kept overheating, he turned to AMC. We found him a PCB Mount servo drive that offered better performance and no overheating issues.

Got a Project?

There are a lot of things we do here at AMC, but the University Outreach Program holds a special place in our hearts. Year after year, we are amazed by the projects these students undertake.

EXodus team at the Universite de SherbrookeIf you are a university student working on a project that needs motion control, or a professor looking to set up a new lab for your students, then take a look at our selection of free products; we have lots of servo drives and other equipment available. If you don’t see what you need, then take a look at our full product offering, we’re happy to offer a discount on actively marketed products.

Once you’ve picked your products, go ahead and fill out the sponsorship form. If you still aren’t sure what you need, just leave that part blank and let us know you’d like a recommendation. We’re happy to help you!

Once we agree on pricing and drive selection, we will ask you to submit your order to one of our sales coordinators on your university’s letterhead, and we’ll get your servo drives to you as soon as possible.

Much like our usual customers, students who order our drives through the university outreach program get full access to our product & support engineering team for technical support and troubleshooting. If you’re having trouble with installation

The goal of our program is to inspire young engineers to explore the motion control field and give them hands on experience working with electronics. As long as our program is doing that, then we plan to keep it going for years to come.

by Jackson McKay, Marketing Engineer

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