Drs. Michael Goodrich, Mark Colton, Bonnie Brinton, and Martin Fujiki, Department of Computer Science
Evaluation of Academic Objective Completion
The primary goal of the research was to produce robotic tools that can help children with learning disabilities become higher functioning. We accomplished this goal by creating two humanoid robots and a user interface for programming and controlling the robots. We went beyond this goal, with assistance from a Honda Initiation Grant, and developed therapy plans for using the robots to help children with autism, and completed a pilot study with two children with autism during Winter 2010.
Evaluation of the Mentoring Environment
We proposed to recruit two undergraduate students and one graduate student, with one student each from computer science, mechanical engineering, and psychology. When Matt Spackman left BYU, we modified this to include a student from the Communication Disorders Department instead of psychology. With the addition of the funding from Honda, we ended up involving two undergraduate students and one doctoral student from computer science, one undergraduate student and two master’s students from mechanical engineering, and two master’s students from communication disorders.
With the larger group of students, we found great synergy in our twice-monthly meetings with all of the students and faculty members, along with Lee Robinson who is the clinic director in the Communication Disorders Department. Each student also received mentoring from the faculty member within their department, and each undergraduate student received mentoring from the graduate students within their respective departments. Students at all levels were involved in creating and solving research problems, as well as developing technology infrastructure.
List of Students and Academic Deliverables
• Alan Atherton, Ph.D. student
• Dan Ricks, M.S. student
• Nicole Guillan, B.S. student, M.S. student
• Aersta Acerson, M.S. student
• Maggie Hansen, M.S. student
• Tim Major, B.S. student
• Robert Brown, B.S. student
• Michelle Farmer, B.S. student
• Alan Olsen, B.S. student
• Jess Rose, B.S. student
• D. J. Ricks, M. B. Colton, and M. A. Goodrich. Design and Evaluation of a Clinical Upper-Body Humanoid Robot for Autism Therapy. In Proceedings of 2010 International Conference on Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, Venice,
Italy, October 14-16, 2010.
• N. Giullian, D. Ricks, A. Atherton, M. Colton, M. Goodrich, and B. Brinton. Detailed Requirements for Robots in Autism Therapy. Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, October 2010, Istanbul, Turkey.
• M. B. Colton, D. J. Ricks, M. A. Goodrich, B. Dariush, K. Fujimura, and M. Fujiki. Toward Therapist-in-the-Loop Assistive Robotics for Children with Autism and Specific Language Impairment. AISB 2009 Syposium on New Frontiers in Human-Robot Interaction . April 8-9, 2009, Edinburgh, Scotland.
• D. Ricks and M. Colton. Trends and Considerations in Robot-Assisted Autism Therapy. 2010 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Anchorage, Alaska, May 3-8, 2010.
• D. Ricks. Design and Evaluation of a Humanoid Robot for Autism Therapy. M.S. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010.
• Thesis proposals from Maggie Hansen and Aersta Acerson.
• Two successful funding proposals to Honda Research Center
• Visiting M.S. student Vimitha Manohar from MASDAR Institute of Technology,Abu Dhabi, UAE
Description of the Results
Preliminary results from the pilot study indicate that the robot helps the therapist help the child by (a) engaging the child’s attention, (b) involving the child in turn-taking games and in joint attention activities, and (c) generalizing behavior away from the child-robot interaction to child-human interaction. Of particular interest is that differences between a pre-study evaluation and a post-study evaluation of interactions between the children and an unfamiliar adult strongly suggest that the children’s social skills increased in measurable ways. We are in the process of formally coding video to quantify this result.
Description of How Budget was Spent
It is a bit difficult to track which students received what portions of the budget because funding from Honda and funding from the respective departments were also used. However, we tried hard to use the MEG funding primarily for undergraduate students and the other sources for graduate students. My best estimate is that about 2/3 of the budget funded undergraduate students in the Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering departments, with about 1/3 of the budget used to fund a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering.