Penn State Abington and Brandywine general engineering students used a mobile telepresence robot — an iPad attached to a self-balancing vehicle — to collaborate with students 500 miles away at the University of Maine.
The immersive technology easily bridged the distance, providing a two-way learning experience:
- Abington/Brandywine students in the general engineering multidisciplinary engineering design (MDE) option remotely operated the robot at the PopTech Conference in Camden, Maine. As part of the senior robotics design course, the Penn Staters interacted with the New England students and others at the conference and experienced PopTech exhibits.
- Maine students, enrolled in an online course connected to the conference, logged in to the Double Robotics unit physically located at the Penn State engineering lab at Great Valley in suburban Philadelphia. The Abington/Brandywine students led a tour of the fabrication workshop and walked UMainers, mostly non-technical majors, through their robotics projects.
Robert Avanzato, associate professor of engineering at Abington, explained that telepresence robots are becoming increasingly common in fields including medicine, education, and manufacturing. The Maine project gave students the opportunity to explore the effectiveness and limitations of remote two-way communication.
The user can independently move the robot to different locations, including hazardous environments. Using the robot in this way supports strong communications and reduces environmental impact, travel time and expenses.