Entries tagged with “robotics” from Computer Science Department News

Professors Holly Yanco and Benyuan Liu were invited guests at the twelfth Microsoft Faculty Summit, held from July 18 to 20, 2011, in Redmond, Washington.

Yanco and Liu have each received an award from Microsoft Research, and were among an elite group of only 300 computer science researchers world-wide who were invited to the Summit.

Prof. Liu recently received an equipment grant from Microsoft Research to introduce Windows 7 phones and mobile cloud services (Project Hawaii) in his offering of 91.564 Data Communications II. Students were very excited about the opportunity to use the advanced mobile cloud technologies from Microsoft Research, and developed a variety of mobile app projects ranging from smartphone RSS news reader to providing various services for the community.

Prof. Yanco was at the Faculty Summit as part of her collaboration with Microsoft on human-robot interaction using the Microsoft Surface. While there, she learned more about Microsoft’s ongoing research in Natural User Interfaces (NUI), including the recent SDK release for the Kinect.  

Microsoft produced a special news video and blog posting describing the work that Yanco’s Robotics Lab has conducted using the Microsoft Surface. The video, entitled “Learn How Robots Can Help When Disaster Strikes,” can be viewed here.

Robotics Lab’s “DREAM Controller” system for interacting with a robot, implemented on Microsoft Surface. (Image from “Learn How Robots Can Help When Disaster Strikes” video.)
On April 26, undergraduate students in the Spring 2011 Artbotics class at UMass Lowell held an opening of “Play” at the 119 Gallery. At the same time, Lowell High School students opened their Artbotics show,  “The Other Side,” held at The Revolving Museum. Both institutions are part of Lowell arts community, and partners with UMass Lowell.

The undergraduate Artbotics class was co-taught by Computer Science Professor Holly Yanco, Fine Arts Professor Ellen Wetmore, and UML alumnus Adam Norton. Adam is also the co-instructor of the after-school Artbotics program for high school students at the Revolving Museum.

The whole Artbotics project was launched with a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2006, and these two shows were part of the Boston Cyberarts 2011 Festival.
A party atmosphere reigned at both openings, with students celebrating each other’s achievements. Live video-streaming enabled participants to see what was happening at the other exhibit, several city blocks away. A bus shuttled guests, students, faculty, and staff from one exhibit to the other.
The interactive pieces at the 119 Gallery included the Trash Monster, created by Fine Arts majors Julia Donigian and Alyssa McCann. The monsters were set in a landfill of debris, designed with motors and sensors to jump up to see who dared to awake them from their slumber. The monsters were modeled to mimic the personalities and look of their creators.

Simply Over Engineered, by Computer Science major Eric McCann, performed a swaying give-and-take dance with the viewer, representing over 60 hours of design time. The steam-punk robotic arm had a multitude of sensors and used pulleys, ball bearings, gears, belts and an Arduino microcontroller, enabling it to perform its magical movement.

City Scape by Kristin Morrisey transfixed the viewer with the glistening Boston city skyline at nightfall. Large sheets of metal collided with one another to create thunder in English major Kristen Dubis’ piece titled Nerves.
A movie highlighting each of the projects exhibited at the 119 Gallery is below.

Undergraduate artists and technologists: Jonathan Cloutier, Christopher Conklin, Brian Demerjian, Julia Donigian, Kristen Dubis, Samantha Durant, Laura Eames, Duy Hoang, Dung Le, Christopher Lopez, Patrick Lynch, Nathan Maillet, Eric McCann, Alyssa McCann, Kristin Morrissey, Ian Ndicu, Jared Peters, Juan Rios and Tuan Vu.

Laura Eames prepares her Flowers piece for exhibit. Inspired by Arthur Ganson, Laura created flowers with petals that moved up and down when a viewer approached the piece.

Chris Conklin designed four sets of clapping wire hands for his exhibit, each triggered by movement in front of its distance sensor.

Nathan Maillet created an interactive xylophone.  Viewers played songs on an octave's notes by moving their hands in front of the piece's eight sensors.

UMass Lowell’s Robotics Club brought “Stark,” its student-designed outdoor autonomous robot, to a three-day exhibition and demonstration held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from April 9 through 11. Prof. Fred Martin provided travel funding for the team.

The visit was part of an event organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to bring the capabilities of autonomous robots to the attention of lawmakers as part of National Robotics Week.

UMass Lowell graduate student Nat Tuck and undergraduates Armand Chery Jr., Ken Cramer, Michael McGuinness, and Ian Ndicu participated. UMass Lowell was one of eight collegiate teams to exhibit a robot at the event.

The team left Lowell in the early morning of Saturday April 9, after waking up to learn that Congress had agreed on a federal budget.  The National Parks Service operates the National Mall, and until the budget agreement was in place, the whole event would have been canceled.

In their haste to get on the road, the team forgot to bring a crucial component: an electronic compass required by the robot for navigational guidance.

While there in D.C., the team figured out how to transmit data from the compass built into a team member's Android phone to the robot.  The solution worked, and the team was able to successfully demonstrate autonomous outdoor navigation among several waypoints whose GPS coordinates were provided.

Team member Ian Ndicu, a dual major in computer science and electrical & computer engineering, reflected, “It was great to witness the admiration and awe that the robots brought to all of the people walking by, and I really felt a sense of pride—that we are doing some pretty cool stuff here at UMass Lowell.”

Robotics Club members and Stark, 
Mass Lowell’s autonomous robot platform.
 (L-R): Ian Ndicu, Michael McGuinness, Nat Tuck, Armand Chery Jr., and Ken Cramer. Photograph courtesy of the AUVSI Foundation.

Teams from eight colleges and universities brought their robots to the National Mall for the event.  See more pictures at a story on the AUVSI web site.
Doctoral candidate Kate Tsui, a member of Prof. Holly Yanco's Robotics Lab, presented research on telepresence robots at the 6th Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction in Lausanne, Switzerland in March 2011. The conference was highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 22%.

The paper, Exploring Use Cases for Telepresence Robots, was co-authored by Kate Tsui, Munjal Desai, Holly Yanco, and Chris Uhlik of Google. The studies of the telepresence robots were conducted by Kate and Munjal at Google in Mountain View, California, in July and August 2010.

Tsui’s dissertation research focuses on designing telepresence robot systems for use by people with special needs. In continuing work, the VGo robot, above, has been augmented with additional sensors and processing using a BeagleBoard. VGo’s custom necktie, designed by Adam Norton, lights up and provides status to the user.
UMass Lowell's robotics faculty and students will be presenting four new papers at the IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications (TePRA). The conference will be held on April 11 and 12, 2011 in Woburn, MA.

The TePRA conference is based in the greater Boston area, and has the goal of introducing students to “the state-of-the-art in practical robotics R&D and representatives of both industry and the military.”

Prof. Holly Yanco's Robotics Lab will be presenting two papers: Hand and Finger Registration for Multi-Touch Joysticks on Software-Based Operator Control Units, by Mark Micire, Eric McCann, Munjal Desai, Katherine M. Tsui, Adam Norton, and Holly A. Yanco, and Essential Features of Telepresence Robots, by Munjal Desai, Katherine M. Tsui, Holly A. Yanco, and Chris Uhlik.

Prof. Yanco has a third paper based on her collaborations at MITRE, Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for UAV Landings and UGV Navigation, by Nathan Rackliffe, Holly A. Yanco, and Jennifer Casper.

Prof. Fred Martin's doctoral student Haiyang Zhang will present the fourth paper, entitled Robotic Mapping Assisted by Local Magnetic Field Anomalies

Prof. Yanco notes that when a previous robotics student, Erin Rapacki, presented at TePRA two years ago, “her work was picked up by New Scientist and Popular Science based on exposure at this conference.”

So it promises to be a high visibility event, with excellent representation this year from UMass Lowell.
In January 2011, Professors Jesse Heines and Fred Martin both traveled to India to teach courses as part of the Indo US Collaboration for Engineering Education. Heines and Martin were each accompanied by UMass Lowell undergraduate and graduate students.

The Indo US Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE) was initiated in 2007 to improve engineering education and to “find solutions to the global challenges facing humanity such as energy, environment, health and communications.” It was established by Dr. Krisha Vedula, formerly dean of UMass Lowell's College of Engineering, and presently Special Assistant to Provost for International Partnerships.

As Executive Director of the IUCEE, Vedula recruited Heines and Martin to teach courses during the January 2011 semester break. Heines was introduced to the K.L. University in Vijayawada, and Martin was partnered with the Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology in Chandigarh.

Heines' course, Programming for the World Wide Web, was taught to approximately 280 university students, all enrolled in K.L. University. Martin's course, Introduction to Mobile Robotics, was taught to about 28 faculty of several member schools of the IUCEE, including about 15 faculty at Chitkara itself.

Both Heines and Martin brought UMass Lowell students to co-teach their courses. Heines brought undergraduates Zori Babroudi and Elad Shahar, and graduate student Sreeja Kaimal. Martin brought graduate student Mark Sherman.

Heines and Martin both reported that their course materials and teaching approaches received a great reception from their respective audiences, who were happy to participate in American-style education, with its high degree of engagement and discussion as a natural part of teaching and learning.

The contributions of the UMass Lowell students in conducting the courses were invaluable, and Heines notes that “to my great pleasure, some of the students are still corresponding with Zori, Elad, Sreeja, and me.”

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UMass Lowell graduate student Sreeja Kaimal discussing the course and life in the USA with K.L. University students

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Faculty testing their Sumo robot at Chitkara University

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