Projects 2023

Re-engineering the Musculoskeletal System Using Novel Robotics-inspired Passive Orthopedic Implants

Mentor: Dr. Ravi Balasubramanian

Current reconstructive orthopedic surgeries use sutures to attach muscles and tendons. However, this leads to poor surgical outcomes because of the suture’s limited ability to transmit the muscle’s forces and movement to the tendons. It is expected that using passive implants, such as pulleys and rods, to surgically construct mechanisms in situ using the existing biological tendons will significantly improve post-surgery function (when compared to using sutures) and lead to the development of new surgical procedures. 

Example projects:


Dynamics of Underwater Manipulation
Mentor: Dr. Joe Davidson

Compared to robots on land, underwater robots experience a complex dynamic environment in the form of waves and currents. Underwater robots with manipulators are also complex systems in themselves due to the coupling between the manipulator and the vehicle, as well as hydrodynamic forces imposed from the environment. Our work aims to understand and leverage knowledge of these dynamic systems to better control underwater vehicle manipulator systems (UVMS). This project will involve field testing in the Hinsdale Wave Lab at OSU with a robotic testbed and manipulator.

Example projects include:

  • Simulating complex dynamic models
  • Developing algorithms to account for wave motion
  • Testing control methods on hardware


Robots for Health Promotion
Mentor: Dr. Naomi Fitter

Compared to other types of interactive technologies, robots possess a unique ability to motivate people because people tend to perceive them as a "social other," rather than a tool or device. The OSU SHARE Lab studies applications of robots in health-promoting scenarios, including mobility interventions and physical activity encouragement. For example, children are becoming more sedentary over time; we are curious about the role robots can play in encouraging physical exploration and play for children with typical development and children with motor disabilities. Older adult wellness is a huge topic of interest and study as the need for elder care exceeds the current capacity of the healthcare system; we are researching ways that robots could help to support physical, cognitive, and social wellness in this population.

Example projects:

  • Supporting the design and deployment of robotic systems for interventions with people
  • Designing and evaluating robot behaviors
  • Gathering and analyzing human user data


Robot Grasping
Mentors: Dr. Cindy Grimm and Dr. Joe Davidson

Humans have no trouble picking up and manipulating objects, yet we've struggled to impart that ability to robotic manipulators. This is in part because robotic manipulators lack much of the sensory feedback human hands have, but it's also because we, as humans, are not very good about reasoning about what we do instinctively. The goal of this project is to develop tools and user studies that will let us capture that knowledge and apply it to robotic manipulation tasks. We apply these studies to several areas: fruit picking, object manipulation, and light industrial tasks.

Example projects:

  • Use reinforcement learning to improve grasping and manipulation of objects, particularly apples
  • Improve the mechanical and sensor design of a hand to improve manipulation skills
  • Analyze complex manipulation tasks to reduce them to simpler motion primitives


Algorithms for Infant Mobility
Mentor: Dr. Geoff Hollinger

Robots show promise in their ability to encourage developmentally beneficial movement in infants. Access to a reliable method of intervention such as this is crucial for development, particularly for infants who have disabilities that have been shown to be correlated with lessened physical activity. In this project, we introduce robotic autonomy with the goal of maximizing both the efficacy and reliability of robotic intervention with infants. REU students will work to improve robotic performance through algorithm design and implementation, e.g., for individual robot behaviors and overarching behavioral logic. Algorithm performance will be evaluated through software testing and real robot trials.

Example projects:

  • Low-level autonomy: Designing and evaluating individual robot behaviors
  • High-level autonomy: Designing overarching behavioral logic using behavior trees (based on human user data)
  • Improving navigation through the exploration of sensing or localization techniques, and planning algorithms


Multi-Robot Coordination
Mentor: Dr. Kagan Tumer

Many interesting real world problems require multiple robots to work together. For example, search and rescue missions require coordinating dozens of autonomous robots, as well as ensuring that the robots and humans work together. But providing hard-coded coordination instructions is too limiting. This project explores the science of coordination, and focuses on how to provide incentives to individual robots so that they work collectively.

Example projects:

  • Programming intelligent decision making for robots
  • Implementing incentives for robots
  • Testing coordination algorithms in hardware (wheeled and flying robots)


Human-Robot Teaming for Field Science Data Collection

Mentor: Dr. Cristina Wilson

Robots are used in Earth and planetary science missions as mobile sensor suites, taking low-level commands from humans to execute the navigation, sensing and sampling, while human experts bear the full burden of integrating and interpreting data for future data collection decision making. The goal of this NASA-funded project is to develop new human-robot teaming workflows that allow robots to take on increased responsibility in collaborative exploration decision making, thereby freeing up the expert to engage in the type of abstract hypothetical thinking that the human mind excels at.

The REU student(s) will help with user studies evaluating how scientists respond to suggestions from a robot about where to collect data next. There will be opportunity to conduct studies in simulation and during a planetary analogue science mission on Mt. Hood in August 2023.