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Robot Block Party This Weekend

Robotics experts to demonstrate their creations at Museum of Science and Industry

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University robotics experts and their students -- including students from Northwestern’s new Master of Science in Robotics program -- will demonstrate some of their cutting-edge robots as part of a National Robotics Week program (April 4 to 12) at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI).

The Northwestern robots -- including a fish robot and walking robot -- will put on a show most of Friday, April 10, and all day Saturday, April 11. Undergraduate and graduate students will be on hand to explain the “behind the scenes” of robotics, and several Northwestern faculty, including Brenna Argall, Mitra Hartmann and Malcolm MacIver, will give short presentations of their work Saturday.

“Robotics is one of the best ways to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering and math,” Kevin Lynch said. “Children already are interested in robots natively, and there are so many different fields that are motivated by trying to solve robotics problems.”

Lynch is a professor of mechanical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. In addition to Lynch, Argall, Hartmann and MacIver, other McCormick faculty and their research groups that are involved in the MSI program include Todd Murphey, Jarvis Schultz and Paul Umbanhowar.

Visitors to the museum will be able to meet these Northwestern creations, among others, in the Rotunda, in the heart of the museum:

  • Ghostbot, a robotic fish that can alternate between swimming forwards and backwards, as well as vertically, by using a sophisticated, ribbon-like fin.
  • A small humanoid robot that will demonstrate various capabilities, such as kicking a ball. This fairly unsophisticated robot illustrates the difficulty of mimicking the ease with which a person walks.
  • A haptic interface that enables the user to feel virtual objects on a computer.
  • A programmable motion table that controls the motion of objects sitting on top of it by vibration.
  • The Rethink Robotics Baxter dual-arm robot and the KUKA Robotics youBot mobile manipulator. Both will be demonstrated by Master of Science in Robotics students.

Students from the research groups will explain the intricacies of robotics -- design, programming, mathematics, electronics, mechanics and physics -- at the April 10 and 11 demos.

Details are available on the Museum of Science and Industry website.

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