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Assistive Robotics Competition Robowaiter: A New Approach To Socially Responsible Robotics Education

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Computer Education Innovations I

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.217.1 - 15.217.13



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Paper Authors


David Ahlgren Trinity College

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David J. Ahlgren is Karl W. Hallden Professor of Engineering at Trinity College and is Director and Host of the Trinity College Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest. Professor Ahlgren has been a faculty member at Trinity College since 1973. His current professional interests include educational robotics with real-world applications. Prof. Ahlgren received the B.S. in Engineering from Trinity College, the M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tulane University, and the Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Igor Verner Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

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Igor M. Verner is Associate Professor at the Department of Education in Technology and
Science, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He received the M.S. degree in Mathematics from the Urals State University and the Ph.D. in computer aided design systems in manufacturing from the Urals State Technical University (1981), Yekaterinburg, Russia. Dr. Verner is a certified teacher of mathematics and technology in Israel. His research interests include experiential learning, cognitive and affective development, design projects, and robotics. He is involved in organization of international robot competitions and guidance of school teams.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Assistive Robotics Competition RoboWaiter: A New Approach to Integrating Robotics and Socially Responsible Education


This paper reports on RoboWaiter—the first robot competition in the rapidly growing area of assistive robotics—that was conducted in conjunction with the annual international Trinity College Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest in 2009. Organized with active participation of members of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities, RoboWaiter’s overarching goals were to promote awareness of the needs of persons with disabilities while providing an engineering challenge to designers of all levels of skill within an atmosphere of friendly, team- based competition. An additional goal was to encourage students to think about responsibilities of engineers to society. In this paper we describe the RoboWaiter 2009 assignment and the associated engineering challenge, and we present results of our educational studies. We also discuss the potential of the RoboWaiter competition for developing and demonstrating assistive robotics technologies, providing a fruitful environment for robotics and opportunities for socially responsible education.

Need for Assistance

According to the Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, more than 17% of Americans have a disability, and half of that cohort has a severe disability. The number of persons with severe disabilities is increasing and will continue to grow as the population ages [1]. Many persons with disabilities benefit from an assistive technology device, an “item, piece of equipment, product or system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. “[2]. In a 2005 survey by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, 64% of respondents used some assistive technology. The most frequently used were devices that enhance mobility (canes, crutches, walkers, scooters and wheelchairs), hearing aids, and oxygen tanks. Most respondents who used AT said it made them more productive and more aware of their rights [3]. The U.S. Bureau of Commerce report points out that there is an active, and rapidly growing, assistive technology industry that manufactures more than 17,000 products, and employed over 20,000 workers [1]. Still, according to the Assistive Technology Industry Association, the number of people currently using assistive technology is only a fraction of those who could benefit from it [2]. Thus it is appropriate to raise awareness among engineering students about the needs of those people and to encourage them to solve associated design problems.

Recent attention has focused on the use of robots as assistive agents. Such robots help people with disabilities through physical or social interaction and include rehabilitation robots, wheelchair robots and other mobility aides, companion robots, manipulator arms, and educational robots. An example of an assistive robot is a robot at Georgia Tech that helps persons with disabilities to carry out everyday activities [4]. The robot can fetch objects and open

Ahlgren, D., & Verner, I. (2010, June), Assistive Robotics Competition Robowaiter: A New Approach To Socially Responsible Robotics Education Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16876

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