Celebrating Everything Robotic

Remember how I told you that springtime always makes me think of robots? Apparently, I’m not the only one.

It’s National Robotics Week, and across the country, more than 225 events – competitions, expos, parties, workshops, classes and camps – will celebrate all things robotic. We’re doing our part here at UTARI, hosting a National Robotics Week Expo on Wednesday, April 9th from 10am-6pm. All of our robotics platforms, including PR2, Baxter, Kuka, DR20, and Parrot quadcopters, as well as our student robotics competition team vehicles, will be out and about throughout the UTARI facility doing demonstrations. And we’ll be joined by individuals and organizations from across the country – Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Innovative Conveyor Concepts, National Instruments, the Nolan Catholic School RoboVikes, OnPoynt Aerial Systems, Right Robotics, Vodik Labs, and Aldebaran Robotics, among others – to showcase the most innovative robotics technology. The resulting collection of demonstrations and systems will encompass everything from microrobots to Lockheed’s full-scale Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) – the largest unmanned vehicle ever deployed with U.S. ground forces. It’s UTARI’s version of a robotics “flea market,” with everyone showing off their wares from big to small, from costly to inexpensive, from corporation to Mom-and-Pop vendor.

National Robotics Week, organized by iRobot (creator of the Roomba) and industry partners across the country, highlights the role of the U.S. as a leader in robotics technology development, and seeks to inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related fields. Naturally, you can see why we wanted to play a role in the celebration – those two goals are critical to UTARI’s everyday work and reflect the passion we have for technology development and education.

Not to mention that robots are just plain cool. The assistive technology work we do at UTARI is fascinating, functional, and honestly – incredibly fun. Take our work with Baxter. Baxter is a very functional robotic platform, used primarily for manufacturing and assembly applications. He’s also “affordable” in the world of robotics (running at about $25,000) and has a user-friendly programming interface. Our researchers are working with Baxter to extend his capabilities – looking at further manufacturing and assembly applications, as well as possible applications in the home and community. Our main Baxter researcher, Kris Doelling, has been utilizing source code from Rethink Robotics (Baxter’s creator) to test the platform’s capabilities within the UTARI labs – in this video, Baxter challenges Kris to a game of Connect Four.

While the demos of all things robotic commence at UTARI on April 9th, the University of Texas at Arlington will announce the launch of its Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) Undergraduate Certificate Program. Offered by the College of Engineering, the interdisciplinary program will address ground-based, aerial, amphibious and marine systems. We’re looking forward to Associate Dean Pranesh Aswath’s formal announcement of the program at the Expo, and are excited to see the program begin in the Fall of 2014.

What robotic systems do you find most interesting? Have you worked with any particular robotic platforms that you believe are more relevant to future applications? In the near future, where do you think the most development will occur in the realm of robotics?

Look for more video clips to come featuring Baxter, PR2, and their robotic colleagues here at UTARI. And after the National Robotics Week Expo, we’re hoping that you’ll see a lot of demos that will make you as excited about robotics as we are every day.

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