Scholars discuss cutting-edge research at 2016 robotics workshop

Speaker 2The 2016 Texas A&M Robotics Workshop, held recently, hosted an array of distinguished speakers from institutions around the world, whose research is rooted in robotics.

The 12 researchers who presented at the workshop are area chairs for the 2016 Robotics Science and Systems Conference (RSS), which will be held this summer in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The workshop, held at the Emerging Technologies Building, was open to the public and over 250 students, staff and faculty attended. Attendees traveled from the University of Texas, Rice University and many other institutions.

“We had many freshman engineering honors students attend; it was a great opportunity for them to get exposed to a multidisciplinary area such as robotics that touches on so many areas of engineering and science,” said Dr. Nancy M. Amato, Unocal Professor and senior director of the Engineering Honors Program.

Topics of discussion included the workflow of humans versus robots, soft robotics and the lessons that can be learned from nature, autonomous vehicles and robotic companions. Attendees had the opportunity to tour the Parasol Lab, which Amato co-directs and the NetBot Lab, which computer science Associate Professor, Dr. Dezhen Song directs.

The day concluded with a panel discussion, which touched on issues ranging from technical topics such as reproducibility and validation in robotics research to a philosophical debate about how robotics will change the future of society. The panel included the workshop speakers as well as Dr. Mac Schwager from Stanford University and Texas A&M computer science Associate Professor, Dr. Dylan Shell.


"It is a rare honor to have a cross-section of robotics research with topics and approaches that are so broad while also being presented by speakers among the very leaders of the field,” Shell said. “Moreover, the general feeling of optimism conveyed by the panel discussion on the future of robotics was extraordinarily encouraging and I hope it will help fuel the interests of the next generation of researchers."

The workshop was organized by Amato, who is also director on the foundation board for the upcoming RSS conference, and was sponsored by the Parasol Lab, the Department of Computer Science at Texas A&M and RSS. Shawna Thomas, Sam Rodriguez, Jory Denny and Chinwe Ekenna served as session chairs.

“This event is an invaluable opportunity for top notch robotics researchers to gather and exchange ideas,” Song said. “It is also an opportunity for our students to learn the different topics in the big field of robotics which will help them to broaden their research vision.”

Workshop speakers included: Kostas Bekris (Rutgers University), Song (Texas A&M), Matei Ciocarlie (Columbia University), Eiichi Yoshida (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)), Raffaella Carloni (University of Twente), Julie Shah (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)), Cecilia Laschi (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna), Ming C. Lin (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Hedvig Kjellström (KTH Royal Institute of Technology), Sertac Karaman (MIT), and Dana Kulic, (University of Waterloo).

About RSS: Robotics Science and Systems is a conference that brings together researchers working on algorithmic or mathematical foundations of robotics, robotics applications and analysis of robotic systems. Papers are solicited in all areas of robotics. The final program will be the result of a highly selective review process designed to include the best work of its kind in every category. The conference is single track to allow attendees an opportunity to see the best research in all areas of robotics. The program includes invited talks as well as oral and poster presentations of refereed papers. Proactive efforts are underway to keep conference expenses affordable, particularly for student attendees.