Bridging the Gap between Space Robotics Research and Robotics Education
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The focus of Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Office of Communication and Education is to engage the public through the implementation of innovative approaches such as informal and formal education methods, science outreach, and research development efforts [ 13. One of the direct outcomes of this emphasis is to create a bridge to provide students access to the research and development activities involved in space exploration, as well as to support and develop a pipeline program to encourage the next generation of engineers and scientists. Of special interest is to transfer robotics research knowledge derived from JPL efforts to the educational arena . The robotics field represents the integration of multiple facets of engineering and science - from mechanical construction to intelligence programming to science data analysis. It is an ideal opportunity to showcase the relationship math and science have on tangible real-world applications. In addition, the robotics field incorporates non-traditional areas of study such as the social aspects of teamwork, system engineering, and hands-on experimentation methods. These represent only a small subset of the elements necessary for developing an integrated, intelligent robotic system for space exploration. To promote robotics education, there is a concrete process needed for transferring the knowledge derived from space robotics research to platforms capable of teaching individual artificial intelligence topics, providing step-by-step instructions on robotics techniques, or integrating hands-on learning into the curriculum. In this paper, we will discuss the AI Toolkit, a task carried out at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that focuses on bridging the gap between robotics research efforts and the classroom environment. The AI Toolkit enables training on artificial intelligence techniques through step-by-step instruction and hands-on exercises applied to the robotics arena.