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Development of Multidisciplinary, Undergraduate-Led Research Program in Soft Robotics

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

First-Year Programs Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/36973

Download Count

26

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Paper Authors

biography

Adia Radecka University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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I'm an undergraduate student studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois. My focus is in the bioengineering subdivision: imaging and sensing. I have experience working with SoftRobotics, Arduino, and writing literature review. Traveling is a passion of mine, I have studied abroad in Russia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Italy. I love meeting new people, developing new experiences, and solving problems.

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Alyssa Bradshaw University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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I am an undergraduate student at the Grainger College of Engineering studying electrical engineering interested in soft robotics.

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Javi Cardenas University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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I am currently a junior in electrical engineering, graduating in May 2023. I hold a paid research position for the Grainger College of Engineering working with professor Dr. Golecki. I am interested in pursuing a career in health technology and I see myself working with medical devices in the future.

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Sara Xochilt Lamer University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Sara Lamer (she/her) is a junior studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an ARISE scholar in the Grainger College of Engineering. Sara performs undergraduate research in soft robotics and engineering education funded by the IDEA Institute at UIUC. Sara is interested in pursuing a career in Engineering Education as well as furthering her education upon graduating.

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Ilalee Harrison James University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Ilalee Harrison James is the Associate Director of The Hoeft Technology & Management Program. She serves as a lecturer in addition to leading the strategic plan for the program’s co-curricular outcomes. She is a first-generation college graduate who is passionate about improving career outcomes for underrepresented students in STEAM.

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Holly M. Golecki University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Dr. Holly Golecki (she/her) is a Teaching Assistant Professor in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an Associate in the John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. She holds an appointment at the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine in the Department of Biomedical and Translational Sciences. She is also a core faculty member at the Institute for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in the College of Engineering. Holly studies biomaterials and soft robotics and their applications in the university classroom, in undergraduate research and in engaging K12 students in STEM. Holly received her BS in Materials Science and Engineering from Drexel University and her PhD in Engineering Sciences from Harvard University.

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Abstract

Participation in undergraduate research increases understanding, confidence, and awareness of opportunities in STEM fields. Approximately 45% of [BLIND] students participate in research on or off campus. Comparatively, less than 1% of students from the three cohorts of [BLIND] program at that institution participated in research. Based on student initiative to gain research exposure, a group of [BLIND] students, faculty, and staff co-developed an undergraduate research mentorship program focused on working in the field of soft robotics. The program is aimed at providing exposure to research within the first undergraduate years. The goal is to involve students in the culture of research - publishing papers, attending conferences, and mentoring other students, all shown to have positive outcomes for undergraduate students and promote further exploration of research opportunities. Here we describe the development, structure, and outcomes of the all-undergraduate soft robotics research program. Soft robots replace traditional hard components with compliant materials and flexible electronics. The research has several attributes that make it amenable to undergraduate work. They can be made from common, low-cost materials. The nascent field allows for novel contributions from young students. The field is highly interdisciplinary, drawing on traditional mechanical and electrical principles to use new materials for human-centered, biomedical applications. Students in years one and two of the [BLIND] program, have not yet declared an engineering major. Soft robotics allows these students to experience hands-on projects relevant to multiple fields. In this program students from diverse backgrounds and intended majors, collaborate to develop biodegradable actuators and testing platforms toward implantable, biocompatible robotic devices. A bioengineering faculty member oversees the work, guiding students while providing space for experimentation. Students begin with onboarding activities including safety training, actuator fabrication, 3D printing workshops, CAD training, and an introduction to microcontroller function. With these foundational skills, students work towards technical goals with freedom to explore different aspects of the multifaceted project throughout the semester. In addition to technical skills, students are provided professional development and career readiness coaching aligned with the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Center for Career Development, and Talent Acquisition® Career Readiness Competencies. Workshops are delivered by subject-matter experts, further facilitating networking and community building. In weekly group meetings, students present progress on goals, discuss current literature, and practice career-readiness skills. The direction of the program is reevaluated regularly giving students agency in what they learn. Learning outcomes are evaluated by analyzing results of the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment. Students in this program experience authentic research scholarship and innovate in the field of soft robotics, presenting their work at discipline-specific conferences and preparing publications. Mentees have the opportunity to transition to a mentor role. This paper describes the development and structure of the research program and student outcomes. Reflections from students, staff, and faculty and recommendations for developing similar programs are included. Engaging students in hands-on research builds their confidence to succeed within engineering, further develops their ability to balance individual and collaborative work, and encourages curiosity through self-learning.

Radecka, A., & Bradshaw, A., & Cardenas, J., & Lamer, S. X., & James, I. H., & Golecki, H. M. (2021, July), Development of Multidisciplinary, Undergraduate-Led Research Program in Soft Robotics Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/36973

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