ECE Professor Kristin Dana is the PI for a $3M National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) grant to Rutgers entitled SOCRATES: Socially Cognizant Robotics for a Technology Enhanced Society. The co-PIs are Kostas Bekris (CS), Clinton Andrews (Bloustein School), Jacob Feldman (Psychology), and Jingang Yi (MAE).
The NSF NRT grants are designed to develop and implement bold, transformative models for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduate education training. SOCRATES will create a new vehicle for graduate training and research that integrates technology domains of robotics, machine learning and computer vision, with social and behavioral sciences (psychology, cognitive science and urban policy planning). The long-term objective is to nurture and mobilize a community of researchers who can draw on sophisticated understanding of social structures and processes in the effective development and deployment of autonomous systems for the benefit of individuals and society. A key challenge of the program is Robotics for Everyday Augmented Living (REAL), semi-automated systems that focus on tasks and work within daily life. The REAL challenge will be emphasized using a heterogeneous testbed of robots on campus (Rutgers Live Lab) to go beyond standard lab-based robot experiments incorporating field work with the campus as a model for society. Emerging applications of robotics are certain to bring significant changes in individuals' lives and profound social impacts, including the future workforce of the nation. Key questions are: What are societal impacts of robotic technology? How can these impacts be predicted and evaluated in order to influence next-generation technology? How can robotics be developed in a socially cognizant manner? While the potential of robotics is often postulated, the realization of ubiquitous robot assistants augmenting an individual's productivity and quality of life has not been realized. This training program seeks to identify the critical societal needs that technology can realistically address to catalyze and guide meaningful research. The interdisciplinary theme of SOCRATES unites technologists and social scientists in order to steer the development of robotics and intelligent systems toward the benefit of society. The program aims to train a new type of professional, the socially cognizant roboticist, through the convergence of the socially aware technologists and the technology-aware social scientist. The proposed theme of (SOCRATES) Socially Cognizant Robotics for a Technology Enhanced Society will catalyze a new paradigm of integrative graduate training at the burgeoning interface of society and intelligent devices. The program will differ substantially from traditional robotics programs by integrating technology disciplines and social sciences towards beneficial societal impact. Multi-year cohorts of over 35 graduate students will be impacted by the program, comprised of 17 NRT-funded students, as well as 20 non-NRT-funded students. The program will be offered at the MS and PhD level. A larger community of MS/PhD students across four major academic units (Engineering, Computer Science, Behavioral Sciences, and Public Policy) will be impacted, bringing the expected total to approximately 100 students benefiting from some component of the program over five years.
You can find more details on the project at the NSF page here.
Congratulations to Kristin and her team!