The Eastern North Carolina Section of IEEE Humanoid Robot Project team is working on a mission to build intelligent humanoid robots for STEM outreach. The first generation KEN is made from a mannequin upper body and head and has the ability to see, hear, speak, and move his neck. Now the team look forward to working with students to make more humanoid robots. More information and a picture of KEN can be found here: http://sites.ieee.org/encs-humanoid/
This was my first time being a judge at a First FTC tournament. It was on Jan 16 at the Cardinal Gibbons High School. Two years ago when I first visited the FTC tournament to collect data, I saw judges visiting teams and asking questions. I was interested in all the materials in their hand, and all the questions they asked. I had never thought of a day when I could be a robotics judge.
The robots are coming! IEEE Foundation grant awarded to build friends for KEN, promote STEM Outreach
Thanks to a grant from the IEEE Foundation, the Eastern North Carolina Section and The Forge Initiative are partnering to teach students how to assemble and customize four new versions of Ken. The new Kens will then be shared around North Carolina at STEM Outreach events. You can read about the project here: http://bit.ly/1RaLzpf
Dec 12, 2015 Great fun serving at the FIRST FLL tournament as a Robot Design Judge for the first time ever
I have been conducting research with FIRST FTC and FRC teams for two years, but I have never been a volunteer for any FIRST robotics tournaments. So I signed up a few volunteer positions, starting with the FLL robot design judge. The reason was that I would like to learn more about robot design so that I could use my doctoral training in Human Factors to see some potential opportunities to improve the robot design or robotics education. After getting the notice of assignment, I went through all the online training sessions for judges and got a judge certificate~woohoo~
The IEEE ENCS Humanoid Robot project team is invited to demonstrate the humanoid robot KEN at the Museum of Lief and Science for the first time, during the Halloween season. More information can be found at this link:
Notes about the event
Daniel, Rodney, and I went to the event. Many people dressed up. There were 91 female and 63 male visitors, not including people who watched KEN through the window without coming in, with an estimation of 10. The total would be about 164 visitors saw KEN at the event.
From Nov 3 to Nov 5, I am attending the 15th IEEE RAS Humanoids Conference in Seoul, Korea. I presented a paper about human reactions to a humanoid robot at the workshop of Towards Intelligent Social Robots – Current Advances in Cognitive Robotics on Nov 3. This paper is based on two observations of how humans react to the humanoid robot KEN at a park picnic and a local school. I was awarded the Dr. Kanako Miura Travel Support Award.
Today the IEEE ENCS Humanoid Robot Project team brought KEN to a local charter school and demonstrated to about 360 K-7th grade students. Students at different grades have about 20 or 40 minutes to interact with KEN and learn engineering. The children's reactions and questions are absolutely delightful to observe. I came back to Raleigh around 1am from the HFES conference in Los Angeles last night in order to catch this opportunity and I am so glad that it worked out.
I have been thinking about visiting a FIRST robotics team for more than a year, but never worked out the coordination and schedule. Just this week, I received an email forwarded by NC State IEEE robotics team asking for mentors helping a FTC team that will be hosted at NC State campus. What a blessing! I did not go out to a team but a team comes to my place. I went to their first meeting, and I felt very good at the environment. Look forward to the new competition season, a lot to be learned.
On September 23, I am very thankful that I had an unconditional pass for my preliminary exam.
This exam took two weeks to answer seven questions from my four committees. One of the questions was to write a NSF EAGER proposal. To be honest, this was the most difficult exam I have ever had in my life. The writing part requires broad reading, in-depth understanding, and insightful integrating of the literature. All needs to be done within two weeks. Everybody gets different questions. There is no easy way to prepare for this exam. I spent more than one year to prepare for this exam, which was likely as triple time as others would take. I went to the writing center for several months to work on my writing. I found a quite room to study the month before the exam and I also used that room for my exam. I took time off other work to make sure that I got least distraction during the exam, and I accumulated some moral support on file so that I can look at in case I feel frustrated and doubt about myself.
I had daily documentation of the progress. The whole process was painful. The committee's questions were very challenging. However, I learned so much from preparing and answering. My reading skill and writing skill get much better. I have a much better picture of my research, which also helps me prepare for my next step: dissertation proposal. I am thankful for the committee I have.
Now I can change my title from a doctoral student to a PhD candidate.
Sunday, September 13 from 1-3pm
Explore all kinds of robots, check out 3D printers and tech-infused art, tinker with circuits, and build with Lego with guest star scientists from The Forge Downtown.
I have been thinking about my future lab name (or I can announce its virtual existence from today on August 25, 2015). I would like to call it the E.T. Lab, which stands for Emotion and Technology. This name also makes me think of the cool alien movie character. Currently I am interested in human emotions toward robots, but at certain point, robots will need to find its place in the bigger picture in technology. After all, robots is one type of technology. Two example questions would be: What makes robots different from other technologies? What common things do robots share with other technologies when it comes to interactions with humans?
On August 20, 2015, the ENCS Humanoid Robot Team, Grayson and Daniel, went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to give a presentation, hosted by Dr. Jim Conrad from UNCC. I worked out the schedule at the last minute and was horned to ride with the team to UNCC.
From July 13 to July 17, the RSS 2015 conference was held in Rome, Italy. I presented my research about human emotional responses to robots at the "Women in Robotics" workshop. It was my first time attending this conference, and many researchers were in computer science rather than psychology. There was a lot to learn!
THU-8 Women in Robotics II
Julie Shah, Anca Dragan, Maren Bennewitz
Thursday, July 16
Abstract: This is a mixed-audience, women-only speakers workshop with the goals of: (1) raising visibility of women in robotics by presenting invited talks by women that are leaders in the field, (2) strengthening the community and providing an opportunity for networking by providing an event dedicated to women in robotics, and (3) fostering mentorship of junior female researchers via a poster session, a panel, and travel awards.
I am currently visiting Gothenburg in Sweden for the 11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Dr. Michael Evans and I have three things to present: a workshop introducing the verbal data analysis, a joint data analysis symposium with team from the University of Sydney about the effect of scaffolding on learner engagement in a design-based science learning environment, and a poster about the Edmodo study from Studio STEM project.
All three things are products of my RA job, not directly related to my Human-Robot Interaction research. However, I found the CSCL conference quite interesting because robotics education is actually a type of collaborative learning. The way these education researchers study classroom learning can be applied to explore students learning in robotics education. Especially, video data analysis, audio data analysis, and screen captures, are all ways of exploring. I would like to visit some teams when I go back to the US.
I am very thankful for the Friday Institute at NC State for providing the funding for me to go to this conference. I learned a lot and made many friends in the educational research area.
So I just sent $30 amazon gift cards to 10 participants who completed the whole survey. The drawing was based on a randomized order of names who had completed the whole survey and entered their email address for reward drawing. The deadline of Human-Robot Interaction emotion survey was extended once to May 7, 2015, and the rewards were supposed to be distributed by May 8th, 2015, which is today and I just did it. I wish I had enough money to give to all participants and teams, but I am not capable to do that now as a poor graduate student.
I am very thankful for all participants. As of May 8, 2015, total 232 people opened the survey, 122 people completed the whole survey, and 70 of these 122 people joined the reward drawing, and 10 of them received the rewards.
My goal is to get 200 completed surveys. I still need to find 78 in the next month or so without rewards. At a certain point, I will stop and deal with whatever I have.
I will analyze the data and submit a research paper to a conference or journal. By March 2016, there should be some update on publications that I can post on my research tab for people to review.
Thank you again all who have helped!!!!!!!!!
Tonight the IEEE Robotics team at NC State had a special meeting to share their experiences at the SoutheastCon robotics conference last week from April 9-12, and things do well for the past year, and things to improve, as well as future plans. The meeting was quite productive and they agreed to help me fill out my HRI research survey. I was pretty grateful.
Earlier this semester, Dr. Gillan gave a talk about Haiku and Human Factors. During the talk, he presented several examples of Haiku for Human factors concepts and asked us to write one. I was not quite sure about the rules of Haiku poem, but I did write one about Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).
Cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally,
Human interacts with machine or robots,
It's multitudinal, dynamic, and fasinating.
On April 9th, I visited the robot world in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. They have Rubik' cube robot, dancing robot, chess robot, drawing robot, arrow robot, talk robot, luggage picking robot, and piano robot. This was my first time seeing so many robots in person. I had a wonderful time there.
I am so thankful that the NC FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition) regional is at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, which is about 10 min drive from my school, NC State. I went there both on March 20 and 21.
I had already talked to many teams from the NC regional tournament last year and this years' SC regional, so it did not take me long to find the new teams that I had not contacted before. Again, I spent more time observing the teams and thinking about what research questions would be good for theoretical and practical purposes.
Some volunteers and mentors talked to me about things that might be helpful for me to understand students' emotions, as well ass the team formation, and robot design. These are all interesting! Even though I did not prepare the structure to talk to the kids and mentors about a specific topic, but random conversation already gave me good ideas to think about. I wish I talked to them more.
Besides, it was also fun to bring four Chinese friends to the event. They are all graduate students in NC State, majoring in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Plant Pathology. They had never experienced this kind of event in China either and were amazed by how young and how creative students were to build the robots in such a short time period.
I heard of the HRI conference from my advisor Dr. Douglas Gillan on February 21. After reviewing the conference program on their website, I quickly decided to go by myself if no one else in our department is also going. It was quite expensive to go, but it turned out really worth the investment.
Three biggest gains from this conference. First, the conference gathered many of the most frontier research about human-robot interaction around the world, including US, Japan, and European countries. The diversity of the topics enlightened me to think more broadly, such as robotic furniture, robots in the museums, etc. Regarding my current research about human emotional responses to robots, I learned concepts structures and research designs and measurement from other researchers' work. This was also the most valuable part of going to the conference.
On February 27 and 28, I drove to the 2015 Palmetto Regional FRC tournament in Myrtle Beach Convention center in South Carolina. In the past I have only been to robotics tournaments in North Carolina, so this was my first time visiting a tournament in SC. There were 66 teams participating, and several teams from NC, even from Australia. I was told that the South Carolina tournament was one of the largest in the east coastline. I was glad that I came.
In addition to talking to each team to get their permission to do research with them, I spent more time observing and brainstorming, trying to take advantage of the great opportunity being with so many teams right at the spot.
One lesson learned: I was concerned that if I had talked to the teams too early, it might be impolite to interrupt their work since some were still preparing their robots, so I waited for a while. And then some teams left early somehow that I was not able to catch 7 teams at the tournament. That was a big loss and I need to do it faster since I found that most of the teams were very helpful and nice.
This morning I found three exciting things. First, I found a local LEGO club called, Bricks 4 Kidz. They have LEGO lessons for in school, after school, summer campus, and birthday parties. They even have cooperation with a local McDonald for a family fun time at the first Thursday night every month. I need to check it out.
Second is a new movie coming up, called Spare Parts. The movies is said to be based on a true story, about a group of high school students participating in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and robotics competition tournament. This is the first FIRST movie ever. Definitely a must see.
The third thing is another movie about an underwater robot film. I suspect it is similar to Spare Parts, but it does not matter, I also need to that that out. Our school, North Carolina State University, also has an underwater robotics team. I would like to see their work sometime.
Here is a list of robotics journals. It has a good analysis of the impact factors, but I appreciate that the author also pointed out that some other unlisted robotics journals may be a good fit for other some robotics topics too. The ones listed are more technique-based.
Today I also finished the movie Gravity. To be honest, I did not expect the movie to be so breathtaking. Just wanted to share a few things here:
First, the movie made me think about the purpose of life. Generally, people all enjoy a comfortable and easy life, but why would these people choose to go to space or live in an ice land? These places are definitely not suitable for humans to live. The bottom line is that they need the capability to survive in these places. But even with the full capacity, it is still quite harsh to survive there that Ryan hated space at a certain point.
Lixiao Huang, a human factors scientist who is enthusiastic about human-robot interaction research.