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Students’ robotics work catches industry’s eye

February 02, 2010

Industry is keeping an eye on robotics research and development by Arizona State University engineering students.

Marcos Garcia-Acosta, an Intel Corp. technology marketing manager, recently visited a lab where students are completing senior-year computer science and engineering design projects in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

This semester they’re developing easy-to-use hardware and software to enable students in local high schools to program robots for use in an autonomous robotics competition.

Garcia-Acosta said work by the ASU engineering students’ Intel Robotics Team could potentially have more far-reaching impacts.

Robotics is an area expected to grow significantly, he said, “and we are always looking for innovation. We find a lot of creativity coming out of university students. That’s why Intel is interested in encouraging them.”

For the past four years, Garcia-Acosta has been an industry mentor for the student robotics team. Fellow Intel marketing manager John Oliver also is a mentor.

“They give our students exposure to real-world technological challenges and potential job opportunities,” said Yinong Chen, an engineering faculty member who directs the team.

Intel provided funding in 2007 and 2008 to establish the team, and contributes components for students’ projects each semester. More than 75 students have participated.

“There is a lot of demand for advances in robotics, to make them commercially viable and more versatile,” Garcia-Acosta said. With more robotic devices in use, demand would increase for one of Intel’s primary products, high-performance computer processors. 

Encouraging the students’ research, he said, gives Intel an opportunity to nurture the future experts whose discoveries might improve the company’s products or expand the industry’s horizons.

Students “are good at putting ideas to the test,” Garcia-Acosta said, and his colleagues at Intel “see enough promising things happening” to convince them to continue providing students the tools they need to keep progressing.

See video about the ASU Intel Robotics Team's project.