Human-Robot Collaboration Focus of Industrial Engineering Funding

Harry Pierson
University Relations

Harry Pierson

Research funding from the Department of Defense will help an industrial engineering faculty member deepen research into how humans can better partner with robots to perform complex tasks.

Harry Pierson, assistant professor of industrial engineering, has received $263,000 through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program.

Human-robot collaboration is relatively well developed in the area of unmanned vehicles, where human operators are responsible for high-level decisions, but are generally relieved from more mundane tasks such as navigation, takeoff and landing, and basic system monitoring. The same cannot be said for tasks that require manipulation and mobility in highly unstructured environments, such as equipment maintenance, explosive ordnance handling, healthcare, and supply and logistics applications.

"The next big step in military robotics will be systems that partially automate those tasks, freeing highly-skilled personnel from dull, dirty, and/or dangerous tasks so they can concentrate on high-level decision making," Pierson said. "The same concept extends beyond the Department of Defense to the industrial base it depends upon to support the warfighter. Efficient, agile and precise manufacturing enabled by collaborative robotic technology is a strategic advantage."

Pierson's research proposes a testbed for human-robot collaboration to facilitate research toward automating manipulation-intensive tasks in unstructured environments. The proposed system will integrate three existing robots in the University of Arkansas' Manufacturing Automation Laboratory. In addition to research, the proposed equipment will allow both graduate and undergraduate engineering students to gain valuable hands-on experience with advanced robotic systems.

The equipment will be integrated into the laboratory experiences of multiple courses in industrial, mechanical, and computer engineering and will facilitate collaboration with defense-related manufacturing facilities in the state and region.


Tamara Ellenbecker, website developer
Industrial Engineering

Nick DeMoss, director of communications
College of Engineering


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