Fourth Annual NASA Robotics Academy visits CSAIL for the day

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Fourth Annual NASA Robotics Academy visits CSAIL for the day
Photo: Jason Dorfman, CSAIL photographer.
Joseph LoGrande and Wayne Yu take a closer look inside the DARPA Grand Challenge Vehicle.

On Monday, July 21, CSAIL hosted a group from NASA’s Robotics Academy to tour the lab and find out more about what MIT has to offer; this year marks the fourth year of the Academy’s partnership with CSAIL. Assistant Director of Infrastructure Jack Costanza welcomed the 23 undergraduate students, along with Robotics Academy Dean of Academic Affairs Wence Lopez, Operations Manager Gabriel Goldman and Logistics Manager Mikaela Gomes, in the fourth-floor Kiva conference room. During a breakfast reception, they were given an overview of CSAIL’s past in the form of building 20, as well as its present research and accolades and its goals for future projects.

CSAIL graduate students Matt Walter and Been Kim followed with a presentation on the DARPA Grand Challenge vehicle. Their part of the tour concluded with an opportunity to see and examine the LR3 at an on-site question and answer session.

The group then moved into professor Brian Williams’ autonomous systems laboratory, where Bobby Effinger, Stephanie Gil, Ger Kelly and Mike Sheehy gave demonstrations of both a robotic arm and the prototypes for self-repairing autonomous planetary rovers.

The tour concluded with a video presentation of professor Daniela Rus’ current projects, along with a live demonstration of proprioception in a stepping robot. PhD student Marty Vona conducted both of these displays.

Costanza, in overseeing the tour, emphasized to the Robotics Academy group the premium that CSAIL places on research from day one, and outlined the UROP program in addition to highlighting the opportunities for graduate students. As some of the tour participants are current MIT undergraduates, there may even be some slightly familiar faces among the new recruits when the program restarts in the fall.