Adams State receives Department of Defense Grant for robot lab

(01-20-2014)

A robot laboratory will soon be added to the Adams State University Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Program. The program received a Department of Defense (DoD) grant in the amount of $250,531 to purchase equipment for the lab.

According to Dr. Matt Nehring, chair of the chemistry, mathematics, and computer science department, the robotics laboratory will enhance the STEM research experience.

The robot lab will increase substantially STEM research opportunities for undergraduate students, expand hands-on student engagement in the college classroom, and inspire K-12 students to explore STEM activities.

Nehring said the goals of this grant overlap with the primary goal of the 5-year Title V STEM Grant awarded to Adams State in 2011, namely to increase the number of students pursuing and earning bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The new DoD grant award will help purchase equipment specifically for undergraduate research and classroom use that also coincides with DoD research interests such as artificial intelligence and computer science. The acquisition of TETRIX robotics, Clearpath Robotics Husky mobile robot platforms, NAO Next Gen humanoid robots, and infrared camera systems will support the efforts of Adams State's STEM faculty to develop a full-fledged robotics laboratory that will transform the university's research capacity and potential to engage students in STEM studies.

Access to 3D printing and milling machine functions will enable students to learn valuable 21st-century skills that have direct application in the working world and facilitate robotics research far beyond the department's existing capabilities. This instrumentation project will also enable professors and their students in computer science, physics, and mathematics to join forces in exploring topics in artificial intelligence, surveillance, and supporting computer science programming and its mobile applications.

Nehring said: "Robots capture the imagination of the public and students of all ages – it is difficult to find a more tangible way for sparking interest in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at any level. We are very excited."

A more robust robotics laboratory will facilitate the expansion of Adams State's pre-engineering program and the restructuring of computer science offerings, to deepen students' skills and support student persistence in STEM studies. Finally, the new equipment will dramatically enhance the university's K-12 STEM outreach programs and build on the existing Summer STEM Academy for high school students and other outreach efforts funded by the institution's recently received Department of Education Title V STEM grant.

In addition to Nehring, other Adams State faculty involved in the robotics laboratory project and grant include George Sellman, assistant professor of computer science; Dr. Chris Adams, assistant professor of chemistry; and Dr. Matthew Iklé, professor of mathematics.