Announcing the 2021 Robotics Outreach Ambassadors

August 31, 2021

Robotics can inspire, and we can leverage that power to create more roboticists, keep the public properly informed on its future, and ensure robotics meets our vision of a field that improves society.

To do much of this outreach, we rely on our students. These students find time among classes and research to meet with children, middle and high schoolers, prospective graduate students and faculty, local and national community members, and media. The students present their work, run classes and demonstrations, and build up our own community–activities that bolster the culture and values of the University of Michigan Robotics Institute.

Wami Ogunbi explains the latest robots to visitors after the first Robotics Colloquium organized by Andrea Sipos and Michael Gonzalez with the Robotics Student Graduate Council.
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Rubble-roving robots use hands and feet to navigate treacherous terrain

August 13, 2021

Humans are adept at using our hands to keep our balance, whether by grabbing a railing as we climb stairs, walking with help from a cane, or gripping a strap on the subway. Now, University of Michigan researchers have enabled humanoid robots to use their hands in a similar way, so the robots can better travel across rough terrain, such as disaster areas or construction sites.

“In a collapsed building or on very rough terrain, a robot won’t always be able to balance itself and move forward with just its feet,” said Dmitry Berenson, professor of electrical and computer engineering and core faculty in the Robotics Institute. 

“You need new algorithms to figure out where to put both feet and hands. You need to coordinate all these limbs together to maintain stability, and what that boils down to is a very difficult problem.”

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Helping robots learn what they can and can’t do in new situations

May 19, 2021

The models that robots use to do tasks work well in the structured environment of the laboratory. Outside the lab, however, even the most sophisticated models may prove inadequate in new situations or in difficult to model tasks, such as working with soft materials like rope and cloth. 

To overcome this problem, University of Michigan researchers have created a way for robots to predict when they can’t trust their models, and to recover when they find that their model is unreliable. 

“We’re trying to teach the robot to make do with what it has,” said Peter Mitrano, Robotics PhD student.

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Building the basics in ROB 103: Robotic Systems

May 10, 2021

Students in the new ROB 103: Robotic Systems course came in with a range of prior knowledge, from zero previous robotics exposure to participating in robotics teams in high school. However, all the first-year students completed labs on manufacturing, CAD, 3D printing, electronics, and control.

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