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Computer Science Department will lead the construction of a multimodal collaborative robot system

The system will support cross-disciplinary human-centered research and education at Montclair State University

Posted in: Awards and Recognition, Department Research

students testing robotic arm

Robotics technology plays a significant role in our lives today. The revolutionary potential of robots has attracted investigators’ interests in a large variety of human-centered cutting-edge science and engineering research, such as robot-assisted chemical experiments in hazardous environments and human-robot collaborative tasks in smart manufacturing contexts.

Recently, Drs. Weitian Wang (School of Computing), Michelle Zhu (School of Computing), and Amy Tuininga (PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies) were awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant ($289,737) to construct a multimodal collaborative robot system (MCROS) to support Montclair State University (MSU) cross-disciplinary human-centered research and education.

What This Means at the University Level

The MCROS will provide a state-of-the-art robot platform to advance a wide range of ongoing research projects sponsored by various agencies/organizations and foster multiple potential funding opportunities distributed across four colleges and 12 academic units (departments/institute/center) at MSU. The research activities that will be enabled or expanded based on the MCROS mainly cover five focused areas: (1) intelligent systems and advanced computing, (2) ecology and chemistry sciences, (3) smart urban agriculture and food science, (4) human-factors engineering and social science, and (5) interactive learning. In particular, the MCROS will also provide students, especially female students and underrepresented minorities, with tangible and engaging hands-on projects by robot-supported courses and outreach programs. This MRI project will encourage and facilitate innovative collaborative research across multiple departments and schools in a variety of disciplines. Additionally, the MCROS will broadly open to nationwide scholars. This project will help researchers at MSU to launch robotics workshops with the state-of-the-art robotics knowledge and hands-on activities for local K-12 students, especially who are from under-served districts, which will contribute to the development and diversity of the future high-tech workforce for the NJ state and the country.

What This Means at the Department Level

The MCROS will significantly enhance the CS department’s research infrastructure to support Artificial Intelligence related projects from various research laboratories in the Center of Computing and Information Science. Many synergistic research can be carried out through the collaborative efforts between faculty members with different expertise, hardware, and software resources. In particular, the Data Science center and Cybersecurity center would be able to directly benefit from this multimodal robot system, which can be an ideal experimental platform to deploy and test various AI-related applications. Furthermore, undergraduate and graduate students will gain valuable hands-on experiences from our robotics courses and research projects guided under their faculty advisors.

The Principal Investigators

Weitian Wang profile photo

Weitian Wang

Associate Professor, School of Computing


Dr. Wang, the recipient of the NSF CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) award, is currently a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science. He is the director of MSU Collaborative Robotics and Smart Systems Laboratory (CRoSS Lab). The theme of CRoSS Lab’s research is to release robots from cages and empower human-robot interaction to be high-quality, easy-to-implement, and cost-competitive in human-centered collaborative contexts. CRoSS Lab’s research focuses on collaborative robotics, smart systems, and their CRoSS-disciplinary application in smart manufacturing, intelligent transportation, aerospace, healthcare, smart agriculture, daily assistance, and interactive learning.

Michelle Zhu profile photo

Michelle Zhu

Professor, School of Computing


Dr. Zhu is a Professor and the Associate Chair in the Department of Computer Science. Her research areas focus on parallel and distributed computing, cloud computing, big data analytics and computer science education. She is also the director of the High-Performance Computing and Systems (HPCS) Laboratory at MSU. HPCS lab is currently collaborating with researchers from multiple disciplines on projects such as autonomous vehicle, smart grid, AI for environmental protection, transformative teaching and learning using innovative technologies and game-based learning. Her research projects have been funded by NSF, DOE, ORNL and Nvidia.

Amy Tuininga profile photo

Amy Tuininga

Director, PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, College of Science and Mathematics


Dr. Tuininga serves as Director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at MSU. She is a co-creator of NSF-funded (AISL, INCLUDES, HSI, and IUSE) and corporate and private foundation-funded interdisciplinary educational programs that have engaged hundreds of high schools, undergraduate, and graduate students from low-income and underrepresented groups in STEM. She engages faculty from diverse departments and colleges, inside and outside the university, as well as numerous external partnering organizations, including Fortune 500 and multi-national corporations, local companies, non-profits, government agencies, and community groups to address sustainability. Dr. Tuininga’s research focuses on human impacts on environments and their function.