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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Robots in the Classroom

USC researchers will help bring socially assistive robots into pre-school classrooms.

A team of scientists, including USC researchers, were awarded $10 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) last Thursday to develop a more complex robot that will assist pre-school students in the classroom.

Social robots are presented at the Robotics Open House (Photo by ATVN)
Social robots are presented at the Robotics Open House (Photo by ATVN)

The socially assistive robot will interact with pre-schoolers, helping them with learning disabilities, reading and physical activity.

This is one of the largest federally funded grants ever given by the NSF, aimed at increasing individual attention that kids receive in the classroom. 

These robots will not replace teachers. Instead, they will act as aides, helping to foster long-term relationships with students that will motivate them to grow.

"They're designed to be assistive so we've worked with sort of at risk populations like kids with autism, kids who've had strokes, and the elderly. The idea is to promote exercise or use them as therapies," Aaron St. Clair, a fourth year PhD student, described the social robots during the Viterbi School of Engineering's Robotics Open House.

The vice dean for research and professor at Viterbi, Maja Mataric, will be the co-principal investigator of the team.

USC Viterbi assistant professor Fei Sha will also offer her expert opinion on machine learning.

Research associate professor of the Viterbi School and Rossier School, Gisele Ragusa, will apply the team's findings to pre-school classrooms.

USC has the largest robotics research center in Southern California and the best state-of-the-art equipment for human interactive robots in the country.


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