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Robotics Expanding Hands-On Educational Opportunities, Real-World Experiences

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Robotics students tackling a project.

Carting A New Course: Allison Crump (left), Brandon Naylor (middle), and Ben Griffith (top) developed a prototype telepresence robot that could provide live video while traveling around campus. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

With dedicated professors and enthusiastic students, Rose-Hulman is becoming a popular destination for robotics education. A dynamic multidisciplinary robotics minor academic program has become a key factor drawing many top high-school graduates to campus.

"Our robotics minor provides hands-on applications and real-world demonstration of concepts that students learn in class every day," says Carlotta Berry, PhD, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-director of the robotics program. "Robotics is fun and a great way to make multidisciplinary connections and putting students' knowledge into action."

Students tackle projects that force them to think creatively and apply their classroom learning to a real-world situation.

"The students have the license to be as creative as they want to be," says Andrew Conru, a 1999 economics and mechanical engineering graduate who has become a successful Internet entrepreneur. He is sponsoring a project that has challenged Rose-Hulman students to develop a robot that can create something "unexpectedly beautiful" on an artist's canvas.

In its first year, a student team earned top honors at an international robot drawing competition earlier this year. Eventually, Conru wants the robot to be able to mix paint colors, correct errors, and make decisions about the best way to produce an artistic image.

Other ambitious projects allow remote control of a telepresence robot, nicknamed "Rosie Rover," to provide live video while traveling around campus; design of a new race car exhibit for the Terre Haute Children's Museum; and remotely guide a robot through a complex obstacle course for a national robotics competition.

Also, a Robotics Team allows students to design robots for national and regional competitions.

"Our robotics program improves each year," says David Fisher, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering and another co-advisor for the robotics program. "The students keep exceeding our expectations," he says.

Robotics work involves mathematics, engineering, computer science, and computer design. Rose-Hulman graduates earning a robotics minor are now working for Fortune 500 companies, attending top graduate schools, and becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Berry envisions a multidisciplinary research robotics laboratory on campus in the future.

"The robotics minor is an ideal program to prepare our graduates to work in an ever-changing scientific and technical world," she says.