The DENSO North America Foundation has awarded $50,000 to Lawrence Technological University (LTU) to help create a new multidisciplinary bio-robotics lab that will benefit students in two growing bachelor’s degree programs in biomedical engineering and robotics engineering. Students in traditional programs in electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering will also benefit.
The new human-robot interaction facility, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year, will support new instruction in sensing, wireless communication, 3D perception, planning, and navigational control. LTU students will study how to design sensing and control networks for robots that can safely operate beside or work cooperatively with people to extend or augment human capabilities.
The new lab will be unique in the Metro-Detroit region and will help the university build partnerships with industry in robotic manufacturing and medical care. An existing lab is being repurposed to include the two Kistler® forceplate sensors installed into the floor as well as a 16-channel Delsys® wireless EMG system and a development kit of Shimmer® wireless sensors and software. The equipment will be synced together through the existing Vicon® motion capture system in LTU’s Experimental Biomechanics Laboratory.
The mission of the DENSO North America Foundation is advancing innovation in engineering technology and automotive engineering.
In 2008, Lawrence Tech introduced the first bachelor’s degree program in biomedical engineering in the Metro Detroit area and in 2011 introduced one of the first bachelor’s degree programs in robotics engineering in the country. Rapid enrollment growth in both programs has led to LTU’s commitment to expand academic facilities for both programs.
The strength of LTU’s robotics engineering program was recently cited in the U.S. News “Best Colleges 2014” guidebook.
According to LTU Assistant Professor Eric Meyer, who teaches courses in biomedical engineering and developed the grant proposal, the rapidly expanding use of robotic technology has created the need to build robots that can interact with humans both effectively and safely.
“This approach requires new sensing systems that measure the movements and intent of human workers to design more advanced control strategies and create intrinsically safe robots,” Meyer said.
Faculty from several departments in LTU’s College of Engineering are working together to build an innovative, multidisciplinary engineering program that can help develop next-generation robotic systems.
“The equipment funded by this grant will allow LTU’s College of Engineering to provide practical, hands-on experience to students that is multidisciplinary in nature and focused around the topics of sensing, perception, and control in next generation robotics,” said LTU Assistant Professor Giscard Kfoury, who directs the robotics engineering program.
According to Assistant Professor Kun Hua in LTU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, some robots have gained a form of intelligence with the help of visual sensors – generally called machine vision or computer vision – and artificial intelligence, which helps them to respond according to the situation.
“The use of sensors has taken robots to the next level of innovation. Sensors have increased the performance of robots through adaptive multimedia signal processing techniques, which allow the robots to perform several human functions,” Hua said.