Autism Project Wins 1st Place

April 9, 2012

A student research team from CS & IS is working on the project, Robots as Social Agents:  Multidisciplinary Investigations toward Meeting Multifaceted Needs of Children with Autism, and they were awarded 1st place winner of the Engineering and Computer Science Research Award in the 19th  Annual Bradley Student Scholarship Exposition, Spring 2011.  Student researchers included; Curtis Boirum, Sunnihith Bojedla, Aniket Karmaker, Joseph Kearney, Angela Lee, Shashwati Ramteke, and Supriya Thota.  Faculty advisors were Dr. Christos Nikolopoulos, CS & CIS and Dr. Deitra Kuester, Department of Education.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) exhibit repetitive, stereotypic behavior in an effort to minimize the need for arousal. Human-human interaction also creates high levels of anxiety because reciprocity implies spontaneous, unfamiliar responses. In other words, unfamiliar experiences lead to an increased level of arousal, resulting in increased anxiety. Thus a vicious cycle of inhibited social behavior during social situations occurs resulting in increased fear of these types of encounters, leading to further avoidance.

This cross-collaborative project combines areas of special education, computer science, mechanical engineering, and educational counseling in an effort to discover innovative ways to meet the multifaceted needs of children with ASD and teach social skills using robotic platforms. The symbolic Artificial Intelligence approach is used to control the robots. In other words, based on sensor input, the robot constructs an internal representation of its world using the rule-based, logic programming paradigm. Various robot-to-robot or robot-to-child scripts of social interaction can then be acted out by following a logical narrative based on a rule set.