interfaces. Such interfaces have been shown to be effective tools
for enhancing user engagement and learning [ 16-18]. A proposed
platform to control a robotic fish with a natural user interface is
illustrated in Figure 7. This system can possibly involve a mini-game, such as to collect water temperature, to further encourage
user engagement [ 19].
In a parallel research effort, we are also investigating a new
autonomous charging station for the robotic fish to minimize
maintenance by museum personnel. A proposed platform for
enabling continuous use of an untethered robotic fish through a
direct contact approach is sketched in Figure 8.
An interactive robotic fish exhibit was developed to aid informal science learning. The platform has been well
received by visitors and has contributed to increasing their
interest in robotics. Integrating natural user interfaces and
autonomous charging into the exhibit is expected to further
enhance the visitor experience and strengthen the feasibility of
robotics-based informal science education. n
The authors would like to thank Drs. Mary Leou and Catherine Milne for
important feedback on the informal science education aspects of the
platform; Raymond LeGrand and Chengxing Zhang for the implementation of iDevice applications; Jayhwan Cheong, Mauro DeBellis, Chengxing
Zhang, and Chun Hsien-Wu for assistance with hardware development;
Jeffrey Laut and Tiziana Bartolini for help with planning and implementing the events; The River Project and the Brooklyn Children’s Museum
for graciously hosting Commodore; and all the visitors for their valuable
feedback. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant nos. CMMI-0745753, DGE-0741714, and DRL-1200911.
FIGURE 8 Autonomous charging
station for a robotic fish.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Phamduy was born in
Lowell, Massachusetts in 1988.
He received B.Sc. and M.Sc.
degrees in mechanical engi-
neering from the University of
Massachusetts, Lowell, in 2010
and 2012, respectively, and is
working toward a Ph.D. degree
in mechanical engineering at New York University.
His doctoral research, supported by the National
Science Foundation, focuses on biologically-inspired robotics with application to animal behavior
and informal science education. Since 2012, he
is a recipient of a National Science Foundation
GK- 12 fellowship in the Applying Mechatronics to
Promote Science program.
Maurizio Porfiri was born
in Rome, Italy in 1976. He received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees
in engineering mechanics
from Virginia Tech, in 2000
and 2006; a laurea in electrical
engineering (with honours)
and a Ph.D. in theoretical and
applied mechanics from the University of Rome
“La Sapienza“ and the University of Toulon (dual
degree program), in 2001 and 2005, respectively.
From 2005 to 2006 he held a post-doctoral position
with the Electrical and Computer Engineering
Department at Virginia Tech. He has been a mem-
ber of the faculty of the Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering Department of New York University
Polytechnic School of Engineering since 2006,
where he is currently a professor. He is engaged in
conducting and supervising research on dynami-
cal systems theory, multiphysics modeling, and
underwater robotics. Maurizio Porfiri is the author
of more than 150 journal publications and the re-
cipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER
award (dynamical systems program) in 2008. He
has been included in the “Brilliant 10“ list of Popular
Science in 2010 and his research featured in all the
major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, Scientific
American, and Discovery Channel. Other significant
recognitions include invitations to the Frontiers of
Engineering Symposium and the Japan-America
Frontiers of Engineering Symposium organized
by National Academy of Engineering in 2011
and 2014, respectively; the Outstanding Young
Alumnus award by the College of Engineering of
Virginia Tech in 2012; the ASME Gary Anderson
Early Achievement Award in 2013; and the ASME
DSCD Young Investigator Award in 2013.