Notre Dame Robotics featured in new James Patterson book ‘House of Robots’

Prolific bestselling author James Patterson releases a new children’s guide nowadays (Nov. 24) and it has a distinct University of Notre Dame come to feel.

House of Robots, co-written by Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, will take spot in South Bend and features illustrations from the University’s yearly National Robotics Week event and robotic football tournament. It tells the story of a boy whose university professor mother invents robots, and what happens when a single of these robots decides to enroll in college with his flesh-and-blood “brother.”

Although robot siblings might be fictional, cutting edge research at Notre Dame is bringing us closer to the day that robots can serve as teammates and helpers in complicated human environments. In combination with the University’s robotics outreach applications, this tends to make Notre Dame an apt setting for a guide that aims to get students interested in robotics and STEM.

Laurel Riek, Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, does study with the goal of creating robotics technologies that can immediately sense, realize and reply to human behavior. “The purpose behind this is to make new things achievable for the people in the loop: for instance, to conserve lives by improving patient security to give an aging population the independence they want to continue residing exactly where and as they please and to allow individuals with disabilities,” Riek stated.

“Personal robots that function side-by-side with folks are forecasted to be the next huge technological revolution,” Riek mentioned. “We are gradually seeing them getting into our lives: aiding individuals with disabilities and older grownups, doing onerous chores, and quickly transporting us from area to spot. Nonetheless, there stays a gap in between intelligent techniques that function in the lab, and the reality of developing techniques that perform for true folks in the real globe. We are working to bridge this gap, notably in the locations of social sensing and habits synthesis. We are making robots that can immediately comprehend what individuals are performing, and use that understanding to work more properly with folks across all varieties of various settings.”

On a venture funded by a National Science Foundation Early Occupation award, Riek is enhancing the state of the art for the most-used group of android robots in the world right now: human-patient simulators. These robots are an essential instrument for instruction clinicians, but recent programs are missing a crucial function: In spite of the critical value of facial cues in diagnosis and efficient communication, none of the commercially accessible simulators have expressive faces.

Riek’s perform involves designing new sorts of large-fidelity robotic patient stimulator systems that can express patient signals of discomfort, stroke and neurological impairment. “This work will enable hundreds of 1000’s of physicians, nurses, EMTs, firefighters, and fight medics to practice their remedy and diagnostic expertise extensively and safely on robots ahead of treating genuine patients,” she mentioned.

On one more task, Riek and her college students are deploying novel sensing techniques in hospitals to examine how teams of clinicians work together and model when and how health-related mistakes occur. They hope that a single day this technologies will enable healthcare teams to intervene when an error takes place.

Riek, who was not too long ago named one particular of the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) 20 Faculty Below 40, has also been instrumental in developing and improving robotics programs. She developed a new course at Notre Dame called “Autonomous Mobile Robots,” which she has taught for the previous four years. It is a joint upper-level undergraduate / graduate class that functions a hands-on method to finding out.

“The course focuses on computational issues in robotics connected to sensing, management and preparing,” she explained. “Students also explore modern subjects in the area, this kind of as healthcare robotics, social robotics and driverless vehicles. The course capitalizes on the bodily nature of robotics engineering by including a series of weekly, group-based lab assignments that use the Turtlebot robot, an open hardware, open software platform. Students also obtain expertise utilizing the Robot Working System (ROS), which is the business normal for robotics program growth.”

An innovative element of the course is a capstone task that students design, build and manage fully themselves, culminating in a main demonstration at Notre Dame’s annual National Robotics Week (NRW), a K-12 outreach occasion that Riek founded in 2012. National Robotics Week celebrates robotics technological innovation advancement even though educating the public about the numerous techniques in which robotics technologies impacts society, although encouraging college students to pursue careers in science, technologies, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields. 2014 will be Notre Dame’s fourth annual occasion.

Riek founded the NRW occasion in 2012 and has been working it yearly. Her goal of commencing the occasion was twofold: “First, to showcase my students’ class tasks and graduate students’ analysis, as properly as the other extraordinary robotics perform occurring across the Schools of Engineering, Science, Arts and Letters, and Robinson Community Learning Center. 2nd, to reach out to K-12 college students and their households in the local community. Most folks have by no means witnessed an autonomous robot ahead of in true life, so we wished to develop an interactive, enjoyable expertise for them.” To date the occasion has had more than 600 folks attend yearly from the Michiana local community, and has had over 240 college students, faculty, and personnel exhibit their robotics tasks.

From her very own knowledge, Riek understands that books about science and technologies can have a formative influence on younger readers.

“I grew up reading through science fiction and journey novels, authors this kind of as William Sleator, Harriet Adams, and Issac Asimov,” she explained. “When I was 15 I had a task at the neighborhood library in my town. For the duration of breaks, I would sit in the stacks and read. My town’s library was amazing – it had traditional AI books by Roger Penrose and Marvin Minsky, and pop science CS books by Steven Levy. I devoured them. I would come house from operate and sit down with a notebook, designing algorithms for intelligent methods. I also loved programming it just manufactured so significantly sense to me. In retrospect, it never ever even occurred to me I could do anything else other than grow to be a computer scientist.”

Patterson’s new book also calls focus to Notre Dame’s yearly Blue Gold mechatronic football game.

Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering professors Michael Stanisic and Jim Schemedieler designed the robotic football concept. The event has grown from a classroom necessity into a robotics conference by way of the Mechatronic Football Club at Notre Dame and now attributes other universities, which includes IPFW, IUPUI and Ohio Northern University. In addition, the effort at Notre Dame has expanded from a senior capstone task to consist of undergraduate lessons inside of the Division of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Each group styles and builds robots — such as linemen, running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and kickers — who compete for the Brian Hederman Memorial Robotic Competition Award. Hederman was a Notre Dame student who suffered an untimely death following his freshman yr in 1995. The award and the competitors itself have been inspired by a drawing he left behind.

Equipped with sensors that flash diverse colors when the mechatronic players are hit, tackled or injured, the robots are roughly the size of desktop printers. Every single 12 months the teams incorporate upgrades into their “players.” Amongst the achievements coming from these upgrades was the first completed football pass accomplished by robots, which occurred in a 2012 game. For the duration of the 2013 game in between Notre Dame and Ohio Northern, 5 passes have been finished.

The game itself consists of two 15-minute halves and a 10-minute halftime. The guidelines of the game are those for eight-guy football, modified for mechanical perform.

Despite the air of a sporting occasion, the game is actually a display of the accumulated expertise of sophisticated engineering concepts. The technical challenges of developing and creating the robot football players deepen students’ understanding of and capacity to put into action engineering rules. The participants will use the skills they acquired for the duration of the undertaking in their careers as engineers, applying the very same rules to develop, amid other factors, intelligent prostheses, biomedical products and electromechanical systems in common.

Make contact with: Laurel Riek, 574-631-8380,

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