All students, especially the young minds, are natural scientists and engineers. They love to question and explore to build things by playing and experimenting. Their enthusiasm is boundless when it comes to working with robots; it is the most natural and fun way for young students to get into STEM learning. Our mission is to be a part of this journey by introducing new technologies to young students and helping them become future innovators in STEM-related careers. Dr. Md Jahidul Islam is leading several mentoring programs and outreach activities at the RoboPI laboratory. The long-term goal of these programs is to develop a stronger STEM workforce for the next generation, with a focus to increase participation from underrepresented communities. We believe that robotics and AI can contribute heavily as a natural and fun way to contribute toward building a strong STEM workforce for the next generation.
Our philosophy for education is to inspire students to learn, think critically, and be enthusiastic about scientific inquiry. We devoted our academic career to creating interactive and inclusive learning environments for hands-on STEM topics such as robotics and AI. There is a disconnect between theory and practice for engineering education in the United States, especially in rural areas and underserved communities. Our goal is to inspire a positive impression toward hands-on STEM education for the next generation with preliminary activities starting at grade school, then middle and high school, and advancing to specialized activities in college and graduate school, finally extending to certificate programs. Dr. Islam's plans for K-12 education include coaching teams for VEX IQ robotics championship, mentoring high school students through the SSTP program at UF, and organizing quarterly robotics workshops for middle school students. Dr. Islam also teaches the famous Microprocessor Applications 2 and Autonomous Robots courses at UF.
Robotics always stimulates the curiosity and interest of young minds. Dr. Islam at the RoboPI lab performs a road map of activities involving robotics education for K-12 students. Since Fall-2022, we have been organizing “RoboGator Days” to showcase field robots and virtual simulators to undergraduate and high-school students on a regular basis. These outreach activities will expand to include middle-school students as well as community colleges in North and Central Florida counties. We are coordinating with the UF Center for Precollegiate Education and Training (CPET) to identify prospective students through the Student Science Training Program (SSTP), which facilitates seven weeks of summer residential research activities. This program will be used to organize a “Building Nemo” robotic workshop from Summer-2023 as well. The objective of this workshop will be to train pre-college students to build a simple yet complete end-to-end robotic system such as fish-like robots or autonomous boats. These plans were launched at the pilot event “Robotic-AIoT Visit Day” at ECE Florida in June 2023. At the event, we spent quality time with some talented students from the Westwood Middle School and Buchholz High School. Our RoboPI lab as well as the SmartDATA Lab, TEA Lab, WISE Lab showcased robots and IoT technologies to them. They have outstanding robotics teams (VEX and IQ Championship), who are super excited in our 'RoboGator Days' mentoring and the 'Building Nemo' workshops envisioned by the RoboPI lab. We believe this will be a natural and fun way to contribute toward building a strong STEM workforce for the next generation. [LinkedIn Post!]
We have comprehensive plans to engage in undergraduate mentoring programs at UF and beyond. Dr. Islam is currently mentoring six UF undergraduate students at multiple robotics projects through the Center for Undergraduate Research (CUR), which is for fostering critical and independent thinking, creativity, and understanding of the research process in undergraduate students. We are also hosting two visiting students (one from the University of South Carolina and one from Mississippi State University) through the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Over the next few years, these activities will expan to 12 UF students, including four more SURF students from universities across the United States. Dr. Islam mentor the students personally and involve them in the scientific learning process throughout the lifetime of this project, which provides long-term hands-on training and exposure to the broader umbrella of STEM research.
We are also developing a ROS-based universal simulation platform for the underwater domain, integrating AR/VR (augmented/virtual reality) features to enable remote first-person 'underwater exploration' experience. The objective is to develop an interactive interface where ROV operators, novice divers, marine scientists, and underwater explorers can train and experiment realistic deployment scenarios. These tools and relevant education programs will be developed through a collaboration with the Center for Coastal Solutions (CCS). More details are coming soon!
EEL 4930/5934: Autonomous Robots: covers the theoretical and experimental fundamentals involved in the design and operation of autonomous robots and/or intelligent agents. The introductory discussions span over the subtopics of robot perception, planning, and control. Other major topics include robot part design, sensory integration, motion kinematics, simulation testing (ROS/ROS2), unmodeled environmental/social factors, and aspects of field deployment. In addition to the standard terrestrial robotic systems, it covers analogous topics and design choices for underwater robotics and aerial robotics as well. All the materials and homeworks of this course are developed based on the widely accepted practices of robotics technologies in the modern era.
EEL 4745C: Microprocessor Applications 2: covers the basic concepts of RTOS (Real-Time Operating System) and provides hands-on knowledge of programming important RTOS components on a ARM cortex M4-based processors. Important topics are: multi-threaded programming, thread schedulers, inter-process communication, and synchronization/mutual exclusion via semaphores. Students also learn how to design embedded C software driver libraries for peripherals such as I2C RGB LEDs drivers and a resistive, pixel-based LCD touchscreen. In the later part of this course, students learn to interface a single-board mini computer in an embedded Linux environment to develop several embedded AI/IoT projects.