The potential of robots and the field of robotics have fascinated futurists and technologists for generations. Ranging from automating mundane tasks in manufacturing to creating intelligent humanoids that care for the elderly, applications abound and evolve, driven by advances in the state-of-the-art of enabling technologies that transform fanciful notions into practical embodiments that empower and benefit users. Through the efforts of Dean Kamen and others, robotics has become a powerful platform for inspiring young people to pursue technical fields of study, through kits and competitions that are fun, encourage in-depth understanding and creative expression, and build team skills. NASA missions to Mars and other reaches of the solar system serve to further demonstrate the cutting edge possibilities of robotics-enabled systems and are credited with inspiring the imagination of our youth and their quest to pursue similar interests. At IIT, Illinois Tech Robotics has become a prominent student organization with passionate, sustaining members from a variety of disciplines that collaborate in competitions and serve as mentors to young people being introduced to the excitement and challenge of robotics competitions.
From 2003 to 2011, various faculty members have guided IPRO teams in robotics-centered topics, including: Creating a Robotics Initiative at IIT (as Illinois Tech Robotics was being founded) (Lykos (CHEM)), Robotics Systems Application to the Elderly Living Environment (Sato (ID)), Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition (Vural (MMAE)), Collaborative Mobile Robot Surveyors (Agam (CS)). More recently, through the efforts of a mechanical engineering student and Professor Kevin Meade (MMAE), we have offered an IPRO project focusing on developing an advanced wheelchair concept incorporating robotics elements that improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Advances in materials, feedback control systems, sensors and actuators, and artificial intelligence offer new enablers for a variety of robot and robotics-driven products and services, including self-driving automobiles, drones, medical procedures, logistics, etc.
There is merit in establishing a contemporary and sustainable robotics IPRO course. This IPRO project will renew our efforts to establish an on-going robotics IPRO initiative, in collaboration with Illinois Tech Robotics and various other robotics-related faculty research and course activities, that over many semesters will explore, develop, test and deploy robotics-related innovations for a variety of stakeholders. In so doing, such a robotics IPRO initiative can also reinforce in our students the value of considering and integrating user-centered design with engineering design and the design methods of other professionals, creating a truly memorable interprofessional experience model, offering lasting value to those who participate and study its technique. After all, innovation is often characterized as a great idea executed well and thus capitalizing on the fun, excitement, challenge and potential of robotics via the melding of user-centered design thinking based on insights, brainstorming and prototyping (the great idea) with the rigorous application of engineering and other transformative design methods (executed well) creates a compelling experience for everyone involved.
Goal: The overarching goal of this project is to establish an on-going robotics IPRO course platform that can adapt to contemporary challenges, student interests and needs of external stakeholders.
Approach: This user-centered robotics IPRO workshop class, with 30 students organized in six interdisciplinary teams of five students, will develop an overall understanding for the state-of-the-art of robotics and related technical, social and business trends. This encompasses technologies, products, systems, application areas, and user needs and behaviors.
As members of this foundation IPRO, the fall 2016 IPRO teams have the opportunity to do the broad research on current robotics activity that can lead to creating an agenda for this semester and a roadmap for those teams that follow. The entire class will participate in conducting the research and creating the agenda, while at the same time, individual teams within the class will choose to pursue specific robotics-related goals for the semester.
Specific possibilities for team focus and investigation might include developing new concepts that integrate and demonstrate solutions at the convergence of robotics, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s, including drones), etc. This could also include exploring important robotics-centered applications for user populations that may include seniors, people with disabilities, children, pets, etc., in a variety of environments, such as the home, various care facilities, consumer and industrial settings, various mobile environments, etc.
Call for Broad Student Participation! It is important to emphasize that to be successful, the IPRO teams in this IPRO section benefit from students from both technical and non-technical degree programs in order to identify and develop user-centered robotics solutions that are innovative and have value. In addition, the IPRO instructors will be an active resource in involving faculty from a wide range of academic areas that can inform team thinking and provide useful critique at various stages of concept development.