Education - Page 1 - Birds, bones and bacteria

- Page 1
Birds, bones and bacteria
Using technology in the sciences
By E. Rose Scarff, Contributing Writer

Considering the fact that no one really understands how birds fly, faculty and students at the Maryland Robotics Center at the University of Maryland are doing a good job of getting some of their robots to do a very good imitation. “We are working on Robo Raven,” says Lena Roberts, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering. “We are learning to control the wings separately, and it can now dive and do barrel rolls. We have added propellers to the back for greater control and speed. Real birds manipulate the air to fly, and we are using new technology to improve upon the robotic
drones that we have.”

This is only a small part of the research being done there. “We are doing research on micro-systems robotics,” says Sarah Bergbreiter, Ph.D., director of the Maryland Robotics Center at the Institute for Systems Research, “as well
as quarter-size robots to do things humans can’t. We do research on robotics that can be used in a variety of settings, including search and rescue, construction and in medicine.”

“One of the areas we are working on is in sensor work, getting a robot to collaborate with a person, not replace them. The robot must be able to touch and feel, so we are working on sensors that can help them do that, but it is slow work,” continues Bergbreiter. “We also have been collaborating with biologists to see if the physical world, suchas insects and birds, can be modeled with robotics. Biologists look at the diversity of the natural world, and engineers look at their performance.”

Although most of the work on Robo Raven is at the research stage now, Roberts points out that their bird robot has been used by a farmer to scare away other birds from his crops. “A bird robot is great for monitoring the natural environment.” Roberts also mentions that undergraduateand even high school students have helped in the ongoing research at the Center. There are so many opportunities in this field in both academia and the job world that she has not yet decided on which direction she wants to take her career.

Another direction that students interested in science and technology can take is the study of forensics at Towson University. “The process of gathering information at a crime scene is complicated,” says Dana D. Kollmann, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor in the department of sociology, anthropology and criminal justice. “A map must

Tech in sciences, continued on page 8