A significant portion of my first semester at USC was spent working in Professor Ronney’s Combustion Physics Lab studying turbulent combustion and sustainable flow for semi-perpetual microcombustion. After first semester, I moved over to Professor Maja Mataric’s Interaction Lab to work with PhD student Ross Mead on a project exploring proxemics (spatial positioning) in human-robot interaction. By this time, I had already switched my major to Electrical Engineering—Control Systems from Mechanical Engineering and my passions had transitioned from robotic mechanical design to robotic control and artificial intelligence. This lab is perfect—I got to apply my programming experience, design all electrical components, and also directly interact with the target demographic for data collection and research. But most importantly, I am given a very significant amount of responsibilities that push me to learn new things and perform at the highest level but also gets me personally invested in the success of the projects and a higher level of understanding for the system as a whole.
This high level of understanding opens many new doors when it comes to research and presenting the work being done. These last few weeks have been hectic, first with the annual Robotics Open House on April 7, 2015 then with the Viterbi Expo on April 25, 2015. At the Robotics Open House, USC students as well as students from the area come on field trips to explore the robotics research happening at USC and I spent the whole day working on the demo with my PhD mentor, demonstrating the capabilities of the proxemics algorithm and its implementation on the iRobot Ava platform while at the same time collecting data to effectively create a lexicon for ‘intuitive’ communication between humans and social robots. A few weeks later, I was invited to present the research that I was doing at the Viterbi Expo for accepted students and share my experience in the Interaction Lab and doing undergraduate research in general.
All in all, my work in the Interaction Lab has been one of the best experiences that I’ve had since coming to USC and I plan on continuing work in the fall! It even helped me secure a robotics internship at Facebook this summer! Please let me know if you have any questions about the Interaction Lab or the robotics program at USC in general!