The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ADVANCE Mentoring Grant Lays the Groundwork for Robotics Center

Frank Sup and Meghan Huber

Frank Sup & Meghan Huber

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the College of Engineering and the College of Information and Computer Sciences has received a $5,000 2021 UMass Amherst ADVANCE Mutual Mentoring grant to help lay the groundwork for a collaborative center of excellence in robotics.

The core team members are Associate Professor Frank Sup and Assistant Professor Meghan Huber of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department and Assistant Professor Donghyun Kim and Professor Rod Grupen of Computer Science. This mentorship team consists of a diverse group of tenured and untenured faculty members with different experiences and backgrounds in robotics.

The future aim of the team is to develop a new, cross-college center that creates a fertile ground for both existing and new faculty as well as for recruiting and supporting new faculty planned over the next few years.

As the four-person team explains, “The mentoring activities proposed are guided by our vision for this center, which is to establish a robotics research program that fosters cutting-edge robotics research through creative, interdisciplinary collaborations and nurtures an inclusive and equitable environment for training the next generation of successful, forward-thinking roboticists.”

The team notes, “To address our mentoring challenges, we will hold monthly summit meetings to address a key theme and then work collaboratively in that month to address the challenge. We also plan to actively recruit new affiliated faculty to the mentoring team whose research is complementary to robotics.”

According to the researchers, “Our long-term goal is to establish a large-scale robotics center at UMass Amherst, which will provide unique collaborative research opportunities and nurture future robotic engineers who have innovative ideas, broad and systematic perspectives, and a collaborative research attitude.”

Sup heads the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Lab, which focuses on solving the mechatronic design and control challenges when people collaborate with robots. Huber runs the Human Robot Systems (HRS) Laboratory, whose mission is to advance how humans and robots learn to guide the physical interactive behavior of one another. Kim directs the Dynamic and Autonomous Robotic Systems (DARoS) Laboratory, which focuses on developing control architectures for dynamic legged robots. Grupen leads the research in the Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics, which studies embodied intelligent systems by integrating mechanisms, control theory, machine learning, and cognitive processing. (June 2021)