Transforming the future of robotics

Celebrating International Women In Engineering Day with robotics expert Professor Dana Kulić.

Dana Kulic

Today we’re celebrating International Women in Engineering Day, a global awareness-raising initiative to increase the profile of women in engineering. A UNESCO supported day with a fast growing impact, Monash Engineering is marking this year’s #TransformTheFuture theme with an insight into the development of our new robotics capability, and a Monash engineer now transforming the future of this game-changing field of engineering.

Professor Dana Kulić is an expert in human–robot interaction, robot learning, humanoid robots, and human motion analysis, who recently joined us from the University of Waterloo in Canada. She’s leading the development of a new robotics precinct at Monash, a key focus area for the faculty, and one responding to continuing global shifts towards increased automation, and the subsequent demand for advanced robotics technology and research.

Her passion for robotics is evident; Dana is excited about ‘walking the walk’ and building an experimental space in which robotics research can literally come to life. “Our robotics researchers and students will have a new opportunity to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary and integrated ways, conducting tests and experiments on the robots that will roam and move alongside them,” she said.

In traditional manufacturing settings, robots are isolated from human workers and are usually surrounded by cages in purpose-built spaces. “Currently, where you see robots in a factory, you usually don’t see any people,” she said. “They’re very useful in that environment, but they’re surrounded by fences and sensor curtains, in spaces designed to be segregated. Our research will focus on developing robots that can operate safely, effectively and intuitively in human environments with and for people.”

As a wider range of industries seek opportunities to become further automated and efficient, more collaborative robots designed to be responsive and adaptive to people will be required. “Our research will open up opportunities for automation in smaller businesses, homes, and health care settings, especially aged care, physiotherapy and rehabilitation,” said Dana. “Designing robots that help people is also inspiring for our students, giving them the opportunity to solve important real-world problems and improve quality of life.”

As the world continues to shift towards increased automation, with new technological developments in robotics, AI and data science growing in rapid and unprecedented ways, a dedicated robotics research facility will also ensure Monash stays at the international forefront of influencing the ethical, legal and standards frameworks for future robotics technology. “Our new platform will offer immense opportunities for researchers, students and industry to own the future development of a competitive, thriving robotics industry in Australia,'' said Dean of Engineering Professor Elizabeth Croft, an internationally-recognised expert in the field of human-robot interaction. “As we continue to advance, we must also ensure we have a diverse range of people, perspectives and skills involved in setting the ‘rules of engagement’, and explicitly invite women and girls to contribute.”

At Monash, women are leading in the fusion of human-centred design and embedded machine intelligence through our new robotics capability. On International Women In Engineering Day, all women - students, researchers and industry professionals - are welcome and invited to join us in transforming the future of robotics.