The Engineering Lab Building’s flashy new robotics and human factors lab has been up and running for more than a year, but it got one important finishing touch last month. On Nov. 18, the university officially dedicated the lab in a formal naming ceremony, recognizing the $1 million gift from the Omron Foundation that made it possible. The new Omron Robotics and Human Factors Lab features a small fleet of some of the Japanese robotics company’s newest technology, including multiple robotic arms and mobile robots. For some style points, one of the mobile robots delivered a pair of scissors for a ribbon cutting to Robb Black, president, CEO and COO of Omron Automation Americas.
“The students who come through this lab will be learning on the most advanced automation and robotics equipment in the industry today,” Black said. “The application of human factors principles creates systems and devices that are safer, more intuitive and more effective for accomplishing their given tasks by the people who are meant to use them. Simply put, the human factors lab strives to make technology work better with humans.”
The lab features a special class of robots called “cobots.” Typically, industrial robots are contained in fenced-in areas to protect their human operators. However, cobots are equipped with special safety features so humans can work barrier-free, right alongside them. UM-Dearborn Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Alireza Mohammadi says this provides him and his students with a host of new learning opportunities in the areas of robotic perception, motion control, path planning and human-robot collaboration.
In addition to the $1 million gift to support the lab, the company donated $250,000 to establish a new undergraduate scholarship. The Omron Endowed Undergraduate Student Scholarship supports UM-Dearborn students enrolled in the College of Engineering and Computer Science who express an interest in electrification, autonomy, manufacturing or artificial intelligence. The $250,000 endowed scholarship investment is also eligible for a 50% match from the University of Michigan. In total, this allows for a scholarship award capacity of approximately $16,875 a year.
Story by Lou Blouin