Feature left bracketright bracket Fall 2023

A Robotics Resource for Solving Problems

ROSE-HUB bridges the gap between WPI research and the development of commercial technologies.

Jing Xiao Rose Hub

Sometimes, a job is so unappealing or impractical that the best candidate for the position may be a robot—one that might not even exist yet. When that happens, researchers and students affiliated with the WPI ROSE-HUB can help.

ROSE-HUB, which stands for Robots and Sensors for the Human Well-Being, is an industry/university cooperative research center (I/UCRC) supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that aims to solve critical U.S. business challenges, boost innovation, and develop a high-tech workforce through collaborative research into applied robotics and sensing. Since joining the center in 2020, WPI has launched research projects with six companies, brought in more than $700,000 in government and private funding, and given students opportunities to improve workplaces for humans.

“The ROSE-HUB model helps facilitate industry-funded research at WPI and exposes our faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to real-world problems that we can address,” says Jing Xiao, William B. Smith Dean’s Professor of Robotics Engineering and head of the Department of Robotics Engineering. “ROSE-HUB projects also give us the opportunity to transfer our technologies to industry, which increases the impact of our research.”

ROSE-HUB projects also give us the opportunity to transfer our technologies to industry, which increases the impact of our research.

Jing Xiao

ROSE-HUB, founded in 2014, is one of more than 80 I/UCRCs in the United States and the only center focused on applied robotics and sensing research for applications that benefit human health, safety, and environments. The University of Minnesota leads ROSE-HUB; other academic members with WPI are the University of Pennsylvania and Clemson University.

Although NSF funding supports the universities’ administrative and management costs—WPI has been awarded more than $500,000 from NSF—each university is also responsible for recruiting industry partners to the center. Industry partners pay at least $35,000 a year for full membership in ROSE-HUB.

A key feature of I/UCRCs is that they bridge the gap between basic research at universities and industry development of commercial technologies. Research projects can run for years but are typically designed to take place in one-year modules so that results can be rapidly reported. University and industry members of ROSE-HUB meet twice annually—once to select projects for the year ahead and once to report on project progress. In addition, the research is considered “pre-competitive,” so academic members are free to publish their research, and they retain the rights to intellectual property developed through projects. Industry members can obtain royalty-free, non-exclusive licenses to their center’s intellectual property.

ROSE-HUB is one of three I/UCRCs at WPI. The university also leads the Center for Advanced Research in Drying, which focuses on energy-efficient industrial drying technologies such as those used in food production, and the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling, which concentrates on recovering, recycling, and reusing materials throughout the manufacturing process.

WPI faculty members affiliated with ROSE-HUB are Xiao; Associate Professor Carlo Pinciroli; assistant professors Berk Calli, Jane Li, and Markus Nemitz; assistant teaching professors Gregory Lewin and Andre Rosendo; and Affiliate Assistant Teaching Professor Siavash Farzan. All are members of the Department of Robotics Engineering.

WPI projects have ranged from an autonomous ground vehicle designed to help Dig Safe technicians mark the location of underground utilities on a worksite to a robotic device that slides across power lines to chase away roosting cormorants. A project to develop a semi-autonomous robotic cutting system for metal scrap recycling has led to one patent, additional patent applications, papers published in journals and at conferences, and one PhD dissertation.

Worcester Envelope, a manufacturer based in Auburn, Mass., sought assistance from the ROSE-HUB site at WPI to automate a production job that involved packing paper envelopes into boxes. The job was repetitive and had become challenging to fill, Xiao says, so WPI began working on a way to automate the task. Researchers have made progress on a system that folds flat cardboard into a box and uses sensor-based perception and grippers to pick up and place envelopes into the box.

“It’s a challenging manufacturing problem to solve, because the robotics system must integrate a number of different processes and operate without making mistakes,” Xiao says. “Our goal is to develop a proof of concept for the client, who can then decide whether to commission machines that use our specialized software and hardware.”

For WPI graduate and undergraduate students, working on a ROSE-HUB project is an opportunity to gain experience that appeals to prospective employers. The one-year length of projects is ideal for graduate students, she says, but undergraduates have also participated through senior capstone research projects that developed a prototype Dig Safe robot and a “Bot on a Wire” bird deterrent for overhead power lines.

“ROSE-HUB participation has allowed us to enhance WPI’s project-based learning by giving graduate and undergraduate students a role in effective teams that are addressing critical problems,” Xiao says. “We also know that employers appreciate graduates who can show that they possess experience that goes beyond the classroom.”

Reader Comments


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Please fill in all required fields marked *

When posting a comment, you are stating that you have viewed and agree to the posting guidelines.

All comments will be reviewed prior to posting and any comments that violate these guidelines will not be posted.

Other Stories

A Welcome Invasion of City Walls Researchers at City Hall

A Welcome Invasion of City Walls

Associate Professor Cagdas Onal leads research perfecting lizard-like robots that sneak into small spaces for mapping and inspections.

Read Story
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do Berk Calli and James Akl

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Assistant Professor Berk Calli and student researchers work to create a robot to safely break up ships.

Read Story
Wearable Robot Offers Hope Tess Meier and her robotic HOPE hand

Wearable Robot Offers Hope

Tess Meier uses an insider’s perspective to perfect an exoskeleton hand prototype.

Read Story
Click on this switch to toggle between day and night modes.