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Faculty and students from HSHP and H&S are engaged in ground-breaking robotic research with a goal to provide mobility to infants and very young children with disabilities. Dr. Sharon Stansfield, Associate Professor in Computer Science, Dr. Carole Dennis, Associate Professor in Occupational Therapy, and Dr. Helene Larin Associate Professor in Physical Therapy are working with students in Occupational Therapy on developing different ways for infants to control two Pioneer 3 DX robots.
To date, they have developed a way for infants as young as six months of age to direct their movement on a mobile robot by shifting their weight, using a Wii balance board (links to videos showing two typically-developing infants using the robots can be found at http://faculty.ithaca.edu/sstansfield/research/totsOnBots/ ). The robots are equipped with sonar sensors to prevent collisions, and an override to allow researchers to take control of the robot should infants be headed toward danger.
Other control systems that have been developed include a joy-stick and a button control. Most of the work to date has been focused on developing the systems to work with babies without disabilities. However, the researchers have now begun using the button control system with a very young child with motor disability this semester. Three undergraduate students have been involved in this work: Lauren Cresser, from Occupational Therapy, Camille Dunham, from Physical Therapy, and Madeline Smith, from Computer Science (May grad). Seven graduate students in Occupational Therapy have begun a two year-long research projects involving the robots, including Kelsey Baker, Marissa Becker, Anna Bruehl, Beth Davies, Maribeth Hirschey, Laura Lemelin, and Dustin Newcomb.