Omar Obidat credits a summer research position in getting him hooked on robotics. A senior Computer Science major, he was assisting with research on how comfortable people are around a robotic arm. Now as president of a new student Robotics Club, he’s hoping to share his passion in this futuristic field.
The Robotics Club is an outgrowth of the University’s Collaborative Robotics and Smart Systems Laboratory (CRoSS Lab), where Assistant Professor Weitian Wang, the lab’s director, inspires STEM education and organizes education and outreach programs.
Last summer, Obidat contributed to Wang’s study on how comfortable people are when interacting with a robot. “For example, if the robot gives an object to someone at a particular speed, would they feel comfortable or would they feel uncomfortable because our robot is approaching them in their safe space? It was fun to see how the robot works and how people feel about it,” Obidat says.
Interest on campus for a student club has grown since Obidat and other founding members – including other members of the executive board, Laury Rodríguez, Jesse Parron, and Jean-Jacques N’dri – presented a showcase set up as an interactive experience. There were multiple robots and smart systems to choose from including a collaborative robot platform SmaRC, an immersive virtual reality system, rover, smart armband and flat-screen TV rigged with four sensors turning it into a touch-screen display.
In February, the club is conducting a series of workshops on robotics innovation, which received grant support from the National Science Foundation as well as the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. A goal of these academic events is to attract more women and underrepresented minorities to the STEM field, Wang says. With students across all academic disciplines working in groups, it will be interesting to see what the future holds.
The Robotics Club is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CNS-2104742 and Grant No. CNS-2117308.
Photos by University Photographer Mike Peters.
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