The Tech Frontiers Workshop will be comprised of up to 100 students organized as approximately 20 interdisciplinary teams. The Tech Frontiers Workshop teams will be coordinated by a team of faculty members with complementary expertise in (a) innovation methods to guide the semester process and (b) expertise in the specializations of robotics, Internet of Things and other emerging technologies, and spanning the fields of architecture, engineering, science (including data science), business and information technology.
Every day, we read about trends in technology that affect our lives, jobs, health, recreation, entertainment. This Tech Frontiers Workshop will be refreshed every semester to focus on emerging technologies that can improve our lives and make the world a better place. It begins in fall 2019 by continuing recent popular IPRO topics such as robotics, Internet of Things, and integrating other cutting-edge topics that span artificial intelligence and virtual reality/augmented reality and their application.
Robotics. The robotics topic emphasizes the making of robotics prototypes through an agile process involving small interdisciplinary teams. Prototypes evolve through student discovery of opportunities, founded in their passion, interest and creativity. Multiple interdisciplinary teams will be stimulated and informed by discussions at the convergence of Engineering Methodologies, Design Thinking and Ethics.
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. The possibilities for team focus and investigation are bounded only by the collaborative imagination and creativity of students who join the class: developing prototypes 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 such user populations as college students, seniors, people with disabilities, children, pets, etc., in a variety of environments, such as school, work, home, care facilities, consumer and industrial settings, mobile environments, etc.
This Tech Frontiers Workshop is an on-going robotics 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.
The Internet of Things (IoT): Connecting People via Internetworked Physical Interfaces. We can interact with each other in subtle ways: a touch, a glance, a whisper, a scent. More modern interactions are the poke, the like, the follow and the swipe. This IPRO section takes the stance that humans can be better connected through more natural interfaces. Given the state of internet-of-things technology, it is possible to connect people through internetworked, physical interfaces that engage one’s senses in ways our current social networks do not. Research themes in the course include, but are not limited to current work in IoT, human computer interaction, telepresence, online culture and the psychology of communications.
Interdisciplinary teams explore the IoT problem space, propose solutions and build functional prototypes. The final deliverables of the teams are a physical prototype and a preliminary business model for their idea.
This Tech Frontiers Workshop topic applies user-centered design methods for designing and developing internet-of-things products. There are two main threads: the design process and a hands-on introduction to an IoT platform and the hardware & software ecologies and economies around it. Students also consider the roles that the open source community can play in product development and the contribution teams can make in that community.
Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality and other Topics. These topics will be developed over time; however, students are encouraged to propose to explore challenges and opportunities focused through these frontier technology areas for the semester.
General Overview of the IPRO Workshop Format
The IPRO workshop format gives students the opportunity to choose a broad, overarching theme but leave their options open regarding a specific team topic under the theme. The IPRO workshop sections replace the IPRO 397-xxx and IPRO 497-xxx course sections that have been offered for some time.
Individual topic offerings within a workshop include those conceived by (a) faculty members based on their research or contemporary marketplace challenges and opportunities, as well as (b) IPRO teams within the workshop that are motivated to pursue challenges and opportunities based on their own research insights, interdisciplinary interests and passion. In addition, each workshop offers students a choice between (a) a project experience that emphasizes hands-on prototyping, programming, etc. vs (b) a project experience that emphasizes analysis and planning, although all experiences will have elements of both.
While each workshop has a distinctive, overarching theme, pursuit of challenges and opportunities, and the development of concepts and solutions that have value, requires the application of a toolbox of enabling technologies, techniques and ways of thinking and decision making in various ways and at various levels. This challenges students to apply the body of knowledge associated with their disciplines that can include the following:
Innovation is often characterized as a great idea executed well and thus capitalizing on the fun, excitement, challenge and potential of robotics and other leading-edge technologies — 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.