The National Science Foundation has granted an award to Ithaca College researchers Dr. Carole Dennis, Professor in Occupational Therapy, Dr. Sharon Stansfield, Associate Professor/Chair in Computer Science, Dr. Hélène Larin, Acting Associate Dean in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, Dr. Nancy Rader, Professor in Psychology, and Dr. Judith Pena-Shaff, Associate Professor/Chair in Psychology to investigate the effect of locomotor experience on the development of executive function in pre-crawling 5 to 7-month old infants.
Executive function refers to a range of abilities involved in focusing and maintaining attention, and planning actions to achieve goals—skills that influence cognitive and social success. The research uses the WeeBot, a mobile robot created at Ithaca College in the Tots on Bots Project, to allow infants to “drive” the robot by leaning in the direction that the baby wants to travel. If the locomotor experience afforded by the robot influences the development of executive function, this research may not only promote mobility technology for very young children who have conditions that involve motor impairment, such as Down syndrome, developmental coordination disorder, spina bifida, and cerebral palsy, but also provide a pathway to improved executive control.
This 3-year grant research will provide a rich interdisciplinary research experience for undergraduate and graduate students in computer science, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychology. You can find videos and other information about the Tots on Bots Project here.