UTM inaugurates the Undergraduate Robotics Teaching Laboratory

Faculty, staff, students and guests congregated on Wednesday, September 7th, 2022 to officially inaugurate the Undergraduate Robotics Teaching Laboratory in Maanjiwe Nendamowinan.

To commemorate the opening of the teaching laboratory, Professor Alexandra Gillespie (Vice-President and Principal of UTM), Professor Amrita Daniere (Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean of UTM), and Professor Ilia Binder (Chair of Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences) all provided insightful and inspiring remarks. In particular, Professor Gillespie shared a personal story about her son and his interest in robotics, and what the robotics teaching laboratory means for the community at UTM.

All three speakers then participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where a ribbon was fittingly placed between two robotic arms.

UTM Robotics opening
Left to right: Chair of Department of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, Ilia Binder; Vice-President, and Principal of UTM, Alexandra Gillespie; and Vice-Principal, Academic & Dean of UTM, Amrita Daniere, taking position to cut the ribbon. Photo by Nicholas Iwanyshyn.

Professor Jessica Burgner-Kahrs, Director of Continuum Robotics Laboratory & Vice Chair, Computer Science, envisioned the robotics teaching laboratory when she joined the Mathematical and Computational Sciences department in 2019. 

The space (MN3110), which was originally utilized as a classroom, was repurposed to create a teaching laboratory. This was achieved through the immense planning and teamwork among Robotics clusters, Facilities Management & Planning, and Information & Instructional Technology Services. 

As Professor Gillespie expressed so eloquently, “They united their expertise to accomplish together something we’d never done before: to transform a classroom into a genuinely unique lab, tailored to enable experiential learning opportunities for our students that only come from working with real robots.”

UTM Robotics opening
Right: Ruthrash Hari (Robotics Technician) showing guests one of the robotic arms on the day of the event.  Photo by Nicholas Iwanyshyn. 

Currently, the Laboratory hosts seven collaborative robotic arms, all of which can be remotely controlled in real-time and consist of computer interfaces and cameras to sense their surroundings. As Ruthrash Hari, the Robotics Technician explains, robotic arms can work alongside humans, and they do not need to be caged or physically separated like most industrial robot arms.

Guests at the event had the opportunity to interact with the robotic arms and participate in demonstrations conducted by robotics graduate students. 

UTM Robotiocs opening
Left to right: Professor Shay Fuchs and Professor Jessica Burgner-Kahrs interact with a robotic arm. Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn

Looking ahead to the Fall semester of 2022, undergraduates who have enrolled in “Fundamentals of Robotics” (CSC376) will be the first ones to receive tangible hands-on learning experiences with robotic arms. As Professor Burgner-Kahrs states, “A roboticist is only a roboticist if they work with real robots!”