FIU Faculty is Awarded a $750k NSF Grant to Research and Develop an Intelligent Immersive Environment for Learning Robotics


With robotics automation rapidly transforming jobs in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industries, there is an increased demand for skilled workers in advanced technologies and robotics.

Faculty members from FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) School of Architecture, along with the College of Engineering and Computing Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences (KFSCIS), will collaborate to research and create “Intelligent Immersive Environments for Learning Robotics.” This project focuses on developing a customized learning platform for the AEC industry. It is one of 20 projects across the United States funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Research on Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning (RETTL) program.

FIU team consists of Professor Shahin Vassigh (principal investigator), Associate Professor Mark Finlayson (co-principal investigator), Assistant Professor Biayna Bogosian (co-principal investigator), Teaching Professor Eric Peterson and Dr. Madeline Gannon, who will collaborate with learning scientist Dr. Seth Corrigan from the University of California Irvine, and Dr. Shu-Ching Chen, data scientist at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to conduct the project.

“This grant provides an opportunity to develop a personalized learning tool that tailors robotics lessons and their delivery sequences for differences in ability, experience, and sociocultural backgrounds,” said Professor Vassigh, director of FIU’s Robotics and Digital Fabrication Lab. As students perform robotics curriculum tasks in Virtual Reality (VR), data on their interaction with the system will be gathered and analyzed using Artificial Intelligence. This data will be then used by the system to recommend specific sequences of lessons and learning activities.

“This project will help us drive forward an area of critical importance, namely, the application of AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to the analysis of learning data,” said Dr. Finlayson. “This kind of work will be an important step in understanding how to bring AI benefits to education research and give education researchers a model to follow in using cutting-edge NLP analyses.”

Bogosian, who is responsible for the project’s VR aspect, explained that immersive media has the potential to revolutionize learning by fostering embodiment, interaction, and real-time information sharing between learners and their virtual or physical surroundings. Furthermore, Dr. Peterson believes that by utilizing robotic simulation and VR technology, they can help eliminate technical and economic obstacles in robotics, ultimately promoting a more equitable pairing of talent with expertise.

Dr. Gannon, a former graduate of the Architecture program, expressed her excitement for the project, saying, “Previously, learning robotics involved a significant initial investment in physical hardware, equipment, and space. With this grant, our goal is to demonstrate how using robotic simulation and immersive technologies can help overcome technical and economic barriers to entering the robotics field.”

This project aims to expand the range of STEM-focused programs at FIU, providing future students with the necessary skills to work with cutting-edge robotic technologies and improve their overall abilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 8% growth in STEM occupations from 2019 to 2029, primarily driven by the ongoing advancements in the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, and robotics technologies.

The Robotics and Digital Fabrication Laboratory (RDF) is a state-of-the-art facility with robotic arms, 3D scanners, laser cutters, programmable objects, and 3D printers. The lab offers unique technology solutions for design, testing, prototyping, and fabrication. RDF is an extension of FIU’s Integrated Computer Augmented Virtual Environment (I-CAVE), which is a fully immersive and interactive facility. These facilities are designed to support diverse and innovative ways of using high-end visualization equipment for digital fabrication as well as advancing fabrication tools and methods with immersive technologies.

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