University of Louisville Magazine

FAL 2016

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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"I joined Dr. Popa's team because of the excellence, passion, collaborative nature and progressive open-mindedness that he inspires," said Josh Baptist, a research & development specialist with NGS who followed Popa to UofL to study electronic skin. Popa also received a grant from the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program. This partnership allows his team to collaborate with industry leaders and study robotics technology in everyday settings to help identify market needs. NGS now partners with defense contractors RE2 Robotics and QinetiQ (who developed robots used to disas- semble improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Texas Health Resources. New avenues are also being explored at the UofL Schools of Medicine and Nursing and University of Louisville Hospital to test any lab-created technolo- gies in relevant environments. One of Popa's most prominent research projects funded by this grant involves robot nurses' assistants. And he believes that this is great news for everyone in the health care industry. "These robots are not designed to replace nurses, but to help eliminate mundane tasks so that nurses can focus on more important duties and provide better care for their patients," Popa said. The assistants can perform observa- tional functions, such as determining whether a patient is sleeping or sitting, around the clock. They can also interpret verbal commands from a patient, to bring a glass of water or a remote control, for example. Popa has learned that it is critically important for these robot nurses' assis- tants to adapt and customize their actions based on the specifi c needs of a patient instead of relying on pre-programming. "When taking patients for a routine walk or moving IV poles," he said, "the robot needs to recognize and match the patient's desired pace in order to be successful." These robot nurses' assistants also will be able to provide a wide range of additional services for health care facilities, such as transporting medical equipment and beds from one room to another, taking basic vital signs and alerting staff if a patient needs assistance. Beyond his research goals, Popa is focused on future commercialization opportunities as he brings his advanced robotics into the public sector. This helped his decision to join UofL for several reasons. First, the strong reputation of UofL's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the quality of the un- dergrads within the current Speed School programs were important to him. He also knew that the state-of-the-art Micro/ Nano Technology Cleanroom (MNTC) — a $30 million facility in the John W. Shumaker Research Building — and the Rapid Prototyping Center's world-leading capabilities in additive manufacturing would be key to quickly bringing his products to market. An active start-up culture across the city of Louisville along with open oppor- tunities for commercialization was very appealing as well. He was already aware of several small companies who had experienced commercial success similar to what he hoped to achieve here in the same short amount of time. So, with everything UofL has to offer, when can we expect to see Popa's vision become a reality? "If they are proven to be reliable and cost-effective, these robot nurses' assis- tants may only be about fi ve to 10 years away from real-world hospital applica- tions," Popa said. Beyond that, he believes that robot personal assistants may soon become a common appliance in homes around the world. One thing is for certain, though. The addition of Popa has had a tremen- dous impact on everyone around him. "Dr. Popa's expertise in both macro- and micro-scale robotics adds a lot of value to the Speed School," said Sumit Kumar Das, PhD candidate and NGS team member, "and his research projects and industrial connections are important to the University of Louisville." ■ DAN POPA, PhD • Vogt Endowed Chair of Advanced Manufacturing in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Louisville • Head of Next Gen Systems (NGS) Research Group, University of Louisville • Founding Member, Texas Microfactory Initiative, University of Texas at Arlington • Affi liated Faculty Member, UT Arlington Research Institute (UTARI), University of Texas at Arlington • Faculty Member, Electrical Engineering Department, University of Texas at Arlington • Research Scientist, Center for Automation Technologies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute • PhD, Electrical Computer and Systems Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute • MS, Engineering, Dartmouth College • BA, Dual Major in Engineering and Math with Minor in Computer Science, Dartmouth College Popa has authored more than 100 referred publications and is an active member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) Conference Activities Board, the IEEE Committee. OPPOSITE: FROM INTERACTIVE TOUCHSCREENS (top left) TO PRESSURE-SENSITIVE SKINS (top right) TO HIGH-TECH SENSORS THAT MIMIC MOVEMENT (bottom right), DR. POPA AND HIS TEAM ARE LEADING THE WAY IN ADVANCING HUMAN-ROBOT INTERACTIONS. F A L L 2 0 1 6 U O F L M A G A Z I N E | 3 7 D O M O A R I G A T O , D R . R O B O T O

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