Thirty Bay Area high school students entering their senior year this
fall will soon take part in a new robotics summer course. The unique
program will be offered by Carnegie Mellon University at its west
coast campus, in collaboration with NASA Ames Research Center and the
National Hispanic University, San Jose, Calif.

Students in the ‘Robotic Autonomy’ program will build, program and
operate their personal vision-based, mobile robots as they learn
about the electronics, mechanics and computer science of robotic
systems. The college-level class will culminate with an autonomous
robot contest in August. Then, graduates of the program will take
their robots home for more experimentation. The robots are worth more
than $1,000 each.

“We are delighted to host the Robotic Autonomy program with Carnegie
Mellon University, a renowned leader in computing and robotic
technologies,” said NASA Ames Director Dr. Henry McDonald. “This is
an excellent opportunity to provide world-class instruction in
robotics to these students, while furthering NASA Administrator Sean
O’Keefe’s goal of inspiring our youth. I am particularly gratified
that more than half of this first class is comprised of minority
students sponsored by the National Hispanic University.”3#}NE

The seven-week Robotic Autonomy course will be held from July 1 to
Aug. 16 in Bldg. 17 at NASA Research Park. The class will be taught
by Illah Nourbakhsh, assistant professor of robotics at Carnegie
Mellon’s Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh. Nourbakhsh is co-founder
of the institute’s Toy Robots Initiative and does research in
electric wheelchair sensing devices, robot learning, theoretical
robot architecture, believable robot personality, visual navigation
and robot locomotion.

“Our students will be building sophisticated, vision-based mobile
robots during the first two weeks of the course, and programming them
to solve increasingly challenging problems throughout the summer,”
Nourbakhsh said. “Because these robots have vision capability, they
will be able to move quickly both indoors and out, even over and
around obstacles.

“At the end of the program, each student will take his or her robot
home to keep. The robots will provide them with an unprecedented
opportunity to continue to learn about and experiment with robotics,”
he added. Nourbakhsh noted that every student graduating from the
robotic autonomy course will receive 12 units of Carnegie Mellon
college credit, transferable to any university of their choosing
after they complete their high school studies.

Nineteen of the robotics camp’s class of 30 students are Latino high
school juniors and seniors from the San Jose area, including the new
Latino College Preparatory Academy located on the National Hispanic
University campus. Since May, the students have been preparing for
the camp by attending classes in mathematics for robotics, C++ and
JAVA at NHU from Professors William Cruz, Hugo Comparan and Rodolfo
Scarpati to provide the students with the necessary educational
skills to build the robots.

“The goal is to encourage Latino students to pursue careers in
science and engineering,” said Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dr.
Josephine Hawkins. “According to the National Science Board, the
future of the nation depends on a strong, competitive science and
engineering workforce.”

The Robotic Autonomy course represents Carnegie Mellon’s first
outreach program on its west coast campus at the NASA Research Park.
Courses leading to master’s degrees in software engineering and
e-business will begin in the fall.

“We are excited to begin this joint venture with NASA for community
outreach in the Silicon Valley,” said Raj Reddy, Carnegie Mellon’s
Simon university professor of computer science and robotics and
director of the west coast campus. “This program exemplifies our
commitment to an active, stimulating and challenging educational

The west coast campus is a branch of Carnegie Mellon University,
which is located in Pittsburgh, and known as one of the world’s
premier institutions for information technology research and
education. It also is known for its strengths in engineering, fine
arts, business, public policy and computer science. Carnegie Mellon
has been working to develop a presence in Silicon Valley since 1999
and it has been working with officials at NASA Ames as they develop
the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field.

In other work with NASA Ames, Carnegie Mellon researchers have
developed high-profile robots such as Dante, which explored the
interior of a volcano, and Nomad, which discovered meteorites in
Antarctica. In addition, Carnegie Mellon researchers also have worked
with Ames researchers on projects such as formal methods for
verifying digital circuitry, vision and navigation, machine learning
and data mining.

For more information about robotic autonomy, check the Web site:

For more information about Carnegie Mellon West, see:

For more information about the National Hispanic University, see:

For more information about NASA Research Park, see: