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Stony Brook University, New York


As a child who grew up in a small town in India with little access to electronics or technology, Anurag Purwar never had the chance to experience anything related to robotics.

“Looking back, I’m sure it would have had a major impact on me,” said Purwar, now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University.

And while a second chance at childhood is the material of which Hollywood scripts are made, Purwar not only gets the opportunity to live out the dreams he missed, he works with a greater goal of making a difference. transformational robotic experience possible for today’s children.

Stimulating its noble cause, Purwar’s research group, in collaboration with the University start-up Stony Brook Mechanismic Inc., recently received a $ 1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its proposition, “A Design-Driven Educational Robotics Framework”. The award comes from NSF’s Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR / STTR), an approximately $ 180 million seed funding program designed to help commercialize high-risk technology innovations through grants from research and development to small businesses and startups.

Colleagues of Stony Brook, Keith Sheppard of the Institute of STEM Education, Erik Flynn, clinical professor of the School of Health Technology and Management, Kedar Kirane, assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Jeff Ge, professor, assist Purwar with their own unique expertise. and Chairman, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The award follows Phase 1 funding Purwar received from NSF in 2019, which led to the development of SnappyXO Design, a platform designed and developed in Purwar’s research lab, Computer-Aided Design and Innovation . Prior to receiving funding from the NSF, Purwar received funding from the NSF’s I-Corps (Innovation-Corps) program, which helped him discover clients. Drawing on his entrepreneurial backgrounds, Purwar is the current IP and site manager for the NSF I-Corps program at Stony Brook.

Mechanismic Inc. is the licensing partner and strives to bring the technology to market. The company, of which Purwar is CEO, has received several awards and seed grants from the SUNY Research Foundation, Fuzehub, SPIR, SensorCAT and MTRC (Manufacturing & Technology Resource Consortium at Stony Brook programs.

“SnappyXO was originally created to address a fundamental need to teach first year students authentic engineering design in the context of robotics,” he said.

Purwar is currently working on the development of a Design-Driven Educational Robotics Framework, a unified and holistic platform that teaches students engineering design, hands-on electronics and computer programming under one roof, and brings a new approach. teaching STEM and robotics. In this model, students engage in the entire cycle of design innovation, from conceptualization to programmed robots.

Purwar said this multidisciplinary approach provides multiple entry points for students to engage in different STEM disciplines, including mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science, rather than focusing only on coding.

“This approach has been shown to be particularly effective in engaging young women and encouraging them to pursue studies and careers in STEM,” he said. “Since minorities and women are severely under-represented in STEM education and careers, adopting this style of teaching offers an opportunity to increase engagement of these groups. “

Purwar’s Robotics Education Program is unique in that it allows students to not only build robots, but also design and prototype their own robot kits. The integrated material has varying levels of sophistication adapted to the level of knowledge of each student.

“This technology can not only transform STEM and robotics education in schools and colleges, it could also lead to design tools used by the automation and robotics industries,” he said. he declares.

“Professor Purwar and his SnappyXO robot kit have been featured in the MTRC Robotics Summer Camp since 2018, where high school students team up to learn and design robots for prescribed tasks,” Imin said. Kao, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Executive Director. of the MTRC. “This robotics learning program is a workforce development event for the MTRC as these students will be joining the manufacturing workforce in just a few years. “

A key component of SnappyXO Design is state-of-the-art robot motion design software, which leverages years of NSF-funded research from Purwar to solve an age-old problem of kinematic design of machines and robots. .

“As part of this project, our research will bring together rigid body kinematics and machine learning to develop a suite of methods and algorithms for an AI-driven mechanism design architecture,” he said. he declares. “This software will democratize design innovation and invention and put the power of creativity in the hands of every student and engineer. SnappyXO Design also comes with patented materials and a standards-aligned curriculum for K-12 students and undergraduates.

Purwar said the award will enable its research team to develop the next generation of hardware for robot design, software for invention design capacity building, and a standards-aligned curriculum for kindergarten students. to grade 12 and students.

“Creating this robotics education product is my way of reliving my childhood playing, tinkering and learning with robots and machines that I wish I had,” he said. “I expect the scalability and affordability of this product to enable millions of children around the world to experience authentic robotic education. “

– Robert Emproto

Read the story “Stony Brook Research Group, start-up awarded $ 1 million by NSF for robotics proposal” on SBU News