WSE team takes home 2016 KUKA Innovation Award

April 28, 2016

A team from the Whiting School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science has taken the top honors at the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology in Hanover, Germany.

Comprising three graduate students and one recently completed PhD student from the Department of Computer Science, as well as one robotics Master’s degree student, Team CoSTAR (Collaborative System for Task Automation and Recognition) came home from the 2016 Hannover Messe with the KUKA Innovation Award, which honors outstanding innovation in robotics.

Team members Andrew Hundt, Felix Jonathan, Chi Li, Christopher Paxton, Matthew Sheckells, and Kelleher Guerin were advised by Gregory D. Hager, Mandell Bellmore Professor, of the Department of Computer Science, and Marin Kobilarov, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.Team members say that they also benefitted from the resources and talent available through the WSE’s Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics.

The competition annually draws research teams from around the world to demonstrate new and innovative technologies. This year’s contest challenged participants to invent robotic applications in the realm of flexible manufacturing.

Made up of an “intelligent industrial work assistant,” sensors, a gripper and a personal computer with a touchscreen, CoSTAR is designed to be used by companies to customize programs for use in manufacturing.

“CoSTAR makes it easy for manufacturers to retask a robot in a matter of minutes. As a result, users with no programming background can quickly and easily create complex task plans that readily adapt to new situations,” explained Paxton, the team leader. “The goal is to let ordinary people in a factory use capabilities offered by cutting-edge research to solve their own problems.”

The team’s members presented their design to a jury who judged their submission, along with those of six other finalists, over four days.

“The CoSTAR team had some early setbacks due to equipment failures and missing components. However, after some early glitches, the system performed beautifully and the demos and presentation just kept getting stronger. The ultimate “secret weapon” was the interactive programming environment and general perception capabilities that allowed them to continually add and improve demos, sometimes at the suggestion of onlookers!” said Hager.


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