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emilie_koppMy name is Emilie. I like to talk robots. My specialties are in mechatronics, haptics, fixed-based control and recently, autonomous mobile robots.  I have a B.S. from Trinity University and my M.S. from Rice University in Mechanical Engineering.

I started using NI technologies to build and program robots in 2004 (which helped me land my job at National Instruments in 2007). Now I’m working with NI’s Robotics Crew to design hardware and software to help robot developers tackle robotics challenges.

Beep. Bop. Boop.



1. al - January 20, 2010

hi emilie … im involved with a new wireless technology that i think would be a boon to the robotics industry. i’ve considered it for many other apps, but havent focused on robotics to date.

our ‘tags’ offer a wide range of applications such as a unique and advanced RTLS, allowing for locating & tracking to within inches. they can interface with sensors, activate a motor, send data, text & voice communications, activate an alarm, provide advanced security features, and more.

the tags are small, inexpensive, have a long communication range, superior antenna, high data rate, independent power source, no cell or satellite, internal gps, no hub processing, etc.

please email me or give me a call at 613 724 3755 if you would like to beep bop & boop about the tech ;^-]

2. emiliekopp - January 20, 2010

Very cool. I’m intrigued. Will follow up offline.

3. Horia Pernea - February 4, 2010

Hi Emilie,
I’m Horia from ROMANIA and I first found about you on:

I’m glad I found you I’m interested in robotics too but I made the moves into this direction only in 2006 as a hoby and now for a year I make a master in “Audio-Video technologies” because the “A.I. and robotics” had no interest and I was transfered to the first one.
I’m tring to catch up the gap I have in programming (because lots of robots use programming languages as C++, URBI, Python, or Visuals).

For help can you say what’s your oppinion about starting in robotics:
-hardware: mechanics or/and electronics
-software: programming languages?

I think it’s very hard to be well or very well documented in electronics and programming to be able to combine the informations neccesary for robotics field.

What’s your favourite robot (humanoid or not)? 🙂

With kind regards and a “page bookmark” 🙂
Horia Pernea

4. emiliekopp - February 4, 2010

Hi Horia,
Glad you found my blog. Robotics enthusiasts like yourself are always welcome.
If you’re just getting started, my recommendation for hardware is the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. Regardless of whether you are a researcher or hobbyist, the NXT is a great prototyping platform. It’s low-cost, equipped with an ARM7 processor and lends extremely flexible form factors. Meaning, you can reconfigure the mobility of the robot to your own liking. And you’re equipped with a good selection of sensors and motors to make your robot SENSE, THINK and ACT.
As far as programming languages are concerned, I think that’s more up to you. Thankfully, the NXT can be controlled by a variety of languages, so you can try your hand at several.
Obviously, C++ will be the most common language you run into in the industry. I’ve seen several other text-based programming languages here and there: anything ANSI C based, Java, Python, and MATLAB to name a few.
Graphical-based programming is gaining more and more popularity in the industry. Examples would include LabVIEW, Microsoft Robotics Studio and UrbiLive. These are a little easier to pick up if you don’t have a background in CS. LabVIEW, especially, is a pretty powerful tool for robotics (as you’ll see in my blog posts!). It comes equipped with hundreds of sensor drivers, can be deployed to several processing targets (like FPGAs, RT OS, ARMs and more) and supports a hybrid programming approach, allowing you to import text-based languages like C code and m-files.
So for me, as a mechanical engineer who needed something easy and intuitive to program sophisticated robots, LabVIEW was the answer. But I’m not saying it will be the same for everyone.
Oh yeah, and my favorite robot is WALL-E. I have a miniature model of him at my desk. 🙂

5. Horia Pernea - February 5, 2010

Hi Emilie,

I’m impressed how quick you reacted to my MESSAGE and thanks for the explanations.
I do have a Mindstorms NXT set with multiple add-ons like Port Multiplexer, Gyro, Accelometer, Camera for MINDSENSORS (besides my tons of links, chains …).
I also have an ROBONOVA-I , Aibo 210, Robosapien RS Media, I-que, I-Cybie and a Tribot and a Flytech DragonFly from WowWee.

I made my choice to ask from URBI for “support for my ROBONVA” on the VOTE website (maybe you’ll vote for me like I did for YOU :).

I did made my “summer hollyday” (vacation) with my wife on GRAZ, Austria [EUROPE] at RoboCup2009 and I’ve asked you about a recommended entrance into robotics PROFESSIONAL level, because now after 3 years studying (reading, participating to BETA TESTs on software for WowWee or Aldebaran-Robotics the creator of NAO) I want more. I want to do it into a professional way and try to work into a company on the robotics field.

Thanks very much for the recomandations!
with regards, Horia.

emiliekopp - February 8, 2010

Hello Horia,

Wow, you’ve got quite the collection of robots. I’m a bit jealous. 🙂

As far as suggestions on how to get into the robotics industry, I think my response would warrant a conversation longer than what I could provide in one blog comment. Long story short, I think you’re on the right path. You’re gaining exposure to several different development tools out there.

If you’re looking to get more experience with a specific language or development platform, my suggestion will depend on what kind of company you want to work for. Several of the larger robotics companies build everything in-house, from scratch. These companies are looking for developers who are very experienced in one of the many aspects of robotics; i.e. a controls expert, an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a programmer, all of which would make up a robotics development team. Additionally, because mostly everything is created from scratch, larger companies typically are using ANSI C-based languages for programming.

On the other hand, some of the smaller companies have to be a bit more flexible with their resources. Meaning, they’re looking for people who can quickly put together a prototype and demonstrate a robot concept without spending months of development time or needing an entire team of developers. You’ll need a little bit of experience in a lot of things. For the smaller companies, it’s about winning grants, contracts and/or securing venture capital. They are typically utilizing COTS technologies, rather than building everything in-house, in order to reduce validation times, and ultimately, reduce time-to-market.

That’s where I think LabVIEW is a great tool to be familiar with. Keep in mind, I work at NI and most of my experience is with LabVIEW, so I am admittedly biased. But people like Dave Barrett (former VP of iRobot and Robotics Professor at Olin College) have agreed.

To wrap things up, take a look at NI’s Robotics Starter Kit. It’s for serious robotics developers and includes a mobile platform, a couple of sensors, a 400Mhz PowerPC processor and a 2M gate FPGA. Also take a look at this white paper: Robotics 4-1-1: Four Platforms for One Prototype in One Month or Less.

And contact me: emilie(dot)kopp(at)ni(dot)com. I’m looking forward to continuing our discussion offline.

Take care,

6. robotMeiker - April 17, 2010

Hi Emilie.
Your link was sent to me from the HBRC robotics group (http://www.hbrobotics.org/), CA by Walt PerKo. Me? I’m in Austin, TX and also a robotics aficionado. Walt suggested to contact you regarding NI robotics aficionados here in Austin. So far I have not found the Austin Robotics Group, if there is one. Walt is also working on robotics, he has projects that he believes have a commercial potential.

thanx robotMeiker

emiliekopp - April 19, 2010

Hey robotMeiker,

Glad to hear from a fellow roboticist in the ATX. I can refer you to a variety of robot groups, depending on what you’d like to accomplish.

If you’re looking to build some sophisticated robots with sophisticated tools, I suggest you get involved in a local FIRST Robotics team at a local highschool. There’s several Austin area teams that have performed extremely well in past competitions, so I think you’d actually meet some pretty smart people. You can find a short list of Austin-area teams here. For anyone who’s into robotics, I think it’s an incredible, fulfilling, exciting, volunteer activity.

If you’re just looking to geek-out with fellow hobbyists, you might check out The Robot Group. One of it’s founding members, Edwin Wise, works in R&D here at NI. They build a lot of DIY stuff for things like Maker Faire. It looks like they meet pretty regularly, and may be similar to the HBRC robotics group you showed me.

And if you’re looking to talk to people about commercial potential of your robots, I may be able to provide you with a few contacts. It all depends on what you’re building and what it’s built with.

Go robots!

7. Gobilams - June 9, 2010

hi Emilie,
I found your blog very interesting, can I check with you if National Instruments has any plans to create toolkits or modules for the Aldebaran Robotics Nao?


emiliekopp - June 17, 2010

Hi Gobilams,

Sorry I hadn’t responded sooner. I had to do a bit of internal research at NI before I could give you a good answer to your question.

Here’s what I know about Aldebaran’s Nao:
– it’s the humanoid robot platform currently used in RoboCup Standard Platform League (replaced Sony Aibo in 2007)
– it’s programmed using a proprietary software called Aldebaran Choregraphe but is compatible with MSRDS, Webots and Urbi. I’m not quite sure the extent of “compatibility” but I do know that Aldebaran does not reveal the software architecture openly

Here’s what I can tell you about the possibility of LabVIEW controlling the Nao:
– it’s very unlikely but very possible; Aldebaran has not shown any interest so far in providing compatibility with LabVIEW so there has not been any official development at NI to create VIs to control the Nao. However, based on the specs of the Nao, it would be possible to “hack” it yourself and control it via LabVIEW (disclaimer: I don’t officially advise anyone to do this since it would void any warranty… but then again, engineers do like to take things apart 🙂 )

Before I go into the details on how one might use LabVIEW with the Nao, can you tell me a little more behind your inspiration? Are you interested in LabVIEW and do you currently use the Nao? Or vice versa? Would you be using this for research purposes or are you simply curious as a hobbyist?

If you’re looking for low-cost, humanoid robot platforms, I would also suggest you take a look at the Mini-HUBO, which when equipped with a Fit PC, runs LabVIEW natively. Additionally, with the upcoming release of LabVIEW 2010, we’ll have drivers for the Mini-HUBO’s motors (which are Robotis Dynamixel motors). On top of that, we’ve written a bunch of code we could potentially send you or at least put up on the web.

Just let me know. Thanks for dropping by!

8. Obawomiye Abayomi - August 23, 2010

Hello Emilie,
My name is Obawomiye Abayomi a student of electronic and electrical engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. West Africa. I am in my fourth year and I have really fancied robots and automation since i was young. But i have quite a number of challenges that i am facing. Recently, my Lecturer introduced the LabVIEW software to me and i have been having some issues working with it. Please i don’t know if it is possible for you to help me with some projects i can practice with and maybe some step to step approach into interfacing LabVIEW with the real world…some simple projects including their circuit diagram will do. Thanks in anticipation.

emiliekopp - August 31, 2010

Hi Abayomi,
I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you sooner. I saw your request for help and asked our Academic team if they had any special content or services they could offer you as a student.
If you’re having issues with LabVIEW, you should definitely get some technical support. You can start with the LabVIEW Student Community. Post any questions you might have to the discussion board and an Applications Engineer should follow up with some help.
If you’re wanting to simply become more familiar with LabVIEW, there’s free online training you can take from NI’s website. One of the best things you can learn from this basic content is how to find examples that are helpful to you and your specific projects. You can find these tutorials here.
Lastly, if you’re interested in robotics, I suggest you check out the LabVIEW Robotics Code Exchange. NI has been creating Robot Recipes, which I think would serve as good examples for any robotics-specific projects you may have. These recipes include a brief description of the robot objective, a parts list for the robot and details regarding the software architecture and how the LabVIEW code was built. The VIs are attached to the recipes so you can download them yourself and copy/paste/modify for your own needs.
Hopefully this helps you. I’m glad you found my blog and I wish you the best of luck!

9. James Zapata - September 29, 2010

Hi Emilie,
Im James from Texas and I came across your blog from google about robotics. Im very interested in robotics and thinking about making it a career. Im about to graduate in October with a BS in Electronics Technology. I know this is not an engineering degree but I have a chance to further my education with a free degree program for another BS and an MS because I am a disabled veteran. I do have a little bit of experience in robots. For my Senior Project I built a Wireless Mobile Robotic Arm (4 DOF), using a Basic Atom Pro microcontroller from a company called Lynxmotion. My plan is for a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Computer Science where most robotics programs are in. From the research that Ive done it seems that to be successful in the robotics field you need a degree in Mech Engineering. Im choosing Elec. Engineering because of my degree in Electronics. Whats your thoughts on EE or ME to start off your career in robotics? Im curious what is your BS in and why you chose Mechanical Engineering for MS instead of your BS. In your brief bio I liked the idea that you used NI for your projects to gain experience and land a job with them.

emiliekopp - October 7, 2010

James, you’re definitely on the right track. You are setting yourself up nicely to be a well-rounded roboticist.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: roboticists have to wear many hats. You need working knowledge in EE, ME, controls and computer science. Since you’ll be getting concentrations in EE and CS, it will be important for you to challenge yourself to step outside the curriculum and build some skills in ME and controls theory.
See if your department will award academic credit for interdisciplinary classes. That’s what I did when I got my master’s in ME; I took an AI class in the CS department and I even took a class on human-machine interaction from the Psychology department.
Let me know if you’d like to talk more on this subject. I can send you contact info and we can talk in more detail.
Good luck!!!

10. James Zapata - November 18, 2010

Hi Emilie,
Thank you for the reply on my questions that I had. Ive been doing more research for my career in robotics. At first I was going to do a BS/EE and MS/CS. Id like to work in the field of biomedical robotics and it seems that its important to have a BS/ME, specializing in mechatronics. I still havent decided on keeping CS for my MS. I do have a couple of questions for you now. Looking at your bio I noticed that you went to Rice for your MS. I live in Houston and hopefully will be able to attend Rice for my MS. Im attending U of H in Spring 2011. Now that Ive decided on ME, what type courses should I take to specialize in mechatronics. Like you mentioned before if you have any contact info to talk more about robotics that would be cool.

emiliekopp - November 18, 2010

That’s great news, James. U of H is a great school and I recall taking a few engineering classes there during summers. My guess is that your first couple of semesters should be filled with a lot of fundamental engineering classes. In addition to your typical ME courses (Statics, Dynamics, etc.) keep an eye out for courses that focus on controls theory and electrical engineering. I imagine you’ll want to jump on the opportunity to take classes from the EE department to build knowledge in circuit design and electromechanics. Also, try to take some programming classes. It doesn’t matter what language (C is probably the most common, maybe Java) but it’s important to become familiar with the software side of things since your ME discipline is mainly focused on the hardware side of things.

My biggest recommendation is to always be building robots, whenever possible. Whether for a project or outside of class, start tinkering. The more hands-on stuff, the better. Join clubs, compete in robot design competitions, whatever you can find going on at U of H.

It’s pretty impressive that you’re already mapping out your academic career and you haven’t even started undergrad yet. You are way ahead of where I was at that point. I hope this info helps. Feel free to email me if you’d like to talk more: emilie(dot)kopp(at)ni(dot)com.

Good luck!

11. David Hickman - January 20, 2011


Any PDFs that are not “company secrets” w/ regard to HMI / HAM for smart systems? Tweaking a design and I want to push the limit a bit more. One patent pending for a Human Interface Rotor system helicopter (HIR) Interested in smart control. This is part time for me as the army takes up all of my time. Infantry, but i nerd out on the week-ends. It’s kinda like OCD, but gear toward mechanical stuff. I’m not sponsored by the military, I just went out on my on. Some interest shown from the industry. My web site goes into more detail. Thanx


emiliekopp - January 25, 2011

Thanks for sharing, Dave. Sounds like cool work.

I’m not sure I can help you with additional documentation. However, you may want to search NI’s website (ni.com); there is a lot of technical documentation on smart control. Granted, most of it is focused towards the energy industries, not robotics. But some of the general concepts might still apply.
Take care and good luck,

12. Michael Vallance - December 16, 2011

re. my recommendation for hardware is the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. Regardless of whether you are a researcher or hobbyist, the NXT is a great prototyping platform.

I totally agree. We are using LEGO Mindstorms and LabView (with NXT module) for a Japan – UK project. Our communication and collaboration is in a dedicated virtual world developed in OpenSim. We are now remotely controlling a LEGO robot from within OpenSim.. thanks to the power of LabView and the intellect of the geniuses at ReactionGrid.

Watch our 1 minute demo at


and please email me your thoughts (or, of course, post here). Thank you 🙂

Michael Vallance
Dept. Media Architecture.
Future University Hakodate, Japan.

13. David Hickman - August 24, 2012

Sorry it’s been so long. Thanks again Emilie, I love your blog. I had the opportunity to attend a “conference” that also discussed the Davinci robot for surgery. Truely mind blowing.
Crashed a few protos. 2nd prototype of my patent (Pat # 8,226,026 B2) for Human Interface Rotor System Helicopter (coaxial platform), finally flies with fairly good control. Utilizes Planform Morphing airframes to control the rotor discs with no swash plate.
First controlled flight:

Outdoor flight:

Hard Landing damage: Airframe hit the ground from 15 feet; my fault. I bumped the throttle….airframe was more rugged than I had expected. The combination adhesive with carbon fiber gusset plate was a good choice on my part. The battery/yaw control platform broke free. It still flew, but lost forward/aft control which I expected. If there are not 2 points of connection with the weight equally distributed between both airframes, the lower airframe will act like a clock pendulum. I suppose my theory proved right.

14. Yen-Ming Huang - October 30, 2012

Hi Emilie,
I am Yen-Ming Huang, currently a graduate student in University of Michigan majoring in electrical engineering: system. I was wondering if there is any intern opening in the robotic group of NI next summer? Thanks.

emiliekopp - November 5, 2012

You can see what kind of internships are available at ni.com/careers. Good luck!

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