Robotics is an interdisciplinary field at the convergence of engineering, machine learning, creative thinking and practical mechanics. Powered by human ingenuity and bolstered by advances in technology, robots can go places beyond where humankind can go, from outer space to the deepest regions of the ocean. They are ubiquitous in applications from manufacturing to home care (Roomba or home assistant anyone?) and everywhere in between.
Researchers at the University of Delaware are developing and deploying robotic systems across a variety of industries and spaces to conduct transformative research in agriculture, precision medicine, health care, cybersecurity, marine ecology and more. Read on to explore ways these scientists are leveraging robots to gain traction and tackle tough topics.
A Startup with roots
Chemical-free pest control for farmers
Some pesticides are harmful to the environment and toxic. Predicting when in the growing cycle pests will appear is difficult, making regular treatment necessary and costly for farmers. The TRIC Robotics team, which includes several UD undergraduate students, has developed an autonomous field robot with the ability to travel up and down the rows in a strawberry field, delivering nonchemical pest protection right to the strawberries themselves. The field robot leverages UVC light technology, developed by USDA scientists.
Antarctic food webs
More like farms or grocery stores?
University of Delaware researchers Matthew Oliver and Katherine Hudson think that some biological hotspots in Antarctica may operate like grocery stores. They suspect that food resources on the West Antarctic Peninsula are being transported in by different current systems the way that trains, trucks and planes transport goods to the grocery store. If they are correct, it could provide new information about how this ecosystem will be affected under climate change. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are a key part of this work, traveling beyond where humans can go to collect important data about the environment, water conditions and marine organisms that call the sea home.
Allies In overcoming stroke
Jennifer Semrau, an assistant professor of kinesiology and applied physiology at UD, is delving deeper into a sense that’s critical to movement. She’s working to help stroke patients with upper limb issues regain the sense to improve their movement and balance. In her lab, Semrau is using a high-performance robot called the Kinarm to help with post-stroke assessments. Only about 50 of these devices are in use around the world. The Kinarm resembles a comfy theater seat in which the patient sits, with independently movable platforms for each arm, and a small virtual reality ‘movie theatre’ straight ahead.
Robots these days
Climbing walls, conducting orchestras and so much more
They’re a busy, versatile lot and their range seems to increase every hour. Panos Artemiadis, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware and director of its graduate program in robotics has been working on “brain-swarm” research that allows humans to control the collective behavior of robotic devices with brainpower alone. This is of keen interest to anyone whose work would benefit from a group of drones, for example, teams doing search and rescue or environmental monitoring.
Teaching children cybersecurity
Researchers at the University of Delaware are leveraging an emerging technology known as social robots to test news ways to deliver cybersecurity training in the classroom. This NSF project leverages Zenbo, an off-the-shelf social robot, to deliver cybersecurity lessons by reading children familiar stories, such as Little Red Riding Hood, that have been creatively adapted for the digital age by the UD research team.
Meet me on the cutting edge
Sambeeta Das an assistant professor in UD’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and her students are designing microrobots so small they could get lost inside a human cell. The very tiniest measure about 7 angstroms, the size of a molecule of glucose. The largest are only 10 microns long. A single hair on your head is 20 times thicker.
The UD research community continues to navigate COVID-19, with health and safety the highest priority. In spite of hardships, we’re facing the pandemic with vigilance and resilience.
Check out our COVID-19 research, a virtual visit with the editor-in-chief of Science, and undergrads at work on the Frontiers of Discovery.
UD faculty and students have won major recognition for their expertise and contributions.
This issue of the University of Delaware Research magazine introduces you to a critical creative force at UD — our graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Their ingenuity is lighting new routes to discovery and solutions.
It all began with a Joseph Conrad novel. Doctoral student Pablo McConnie-Saad discusses his journey to better understand democracy, as the first Whittington Graduate Fellow at the Biden Institute.
Doctoral student and Graduate Scholar Nefetaria Yates is examining school discipline and the tactics Black girls have developed for dealing with the pressures they face. Her ultimate goal is to elevate voices that have been silenced.
Entrepreneur Ahad Behboodi wants to see kids with cerebral palsy move more freely. He plans to commercialize a robotic foot device with the power to help them.
Lexie Tabachnick, in her fifth year of doctoral studies, helps to mentor other grad students and undergraduates while she studies the powerful impact a UD-developed family intervention program is having on vulnerable kids.
Sanchita Balachandran, associate director of Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum and doctoral student in preservation studies at UD, is uncovering the forgotten makers of ancient Greek ceramics, and in so doing, changing our understanding of the past.
Elvis Ebikade thinks potato peels hold a lot of promise. He’s working on converting the food waste to valuable chemicals and fuels that can power an environmentally-friendly future.
As a postdoctoral researcher, Liz Coward collected samples of permafrost from the icy walls of a research tunnel in Alaska to study the carbon stored within it.
University of Delaware researchers Matthew Oliver and Katherine Hudson think that some biological hotspots in Antarctica may operate less like local farms and more like grocery stores. If they are correct, it could provide new information about how this ecosystem will be affected under climate change.
Brain-swarm technology is meant to connect minds and machines. For Associate Professor Panos Artemiadis such robotics research has one purpose: To make life and work better for humans.
Sambeeta Das is forging into an exciting world you can see only with high-powered microscopes, where sci-fi meets reality. Welcome to the world of microrobots!
Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability, but UD Professor Jennifer Semrau is working to change that. With the help of a robot, she’s uncovering a critical sixth sense that gets sidelined with stroke.
Adam Stager is working on chemical-free ways to help strawberry farmers improve yield using an autonomous field robot.
Children have grown up with interactive technologies like Siri, Google and Alexa, but they don’t always know how to stay safe online. UD researchers are working on ways to help them.
A class helps preserve the precious stories of a little-documented time in Jewish life.