Santa Clara University


Robotics Team Recognized by NAE

Caption: Using an automated student-built boat and multiple underwater robots, Jasmine Cashbaugh, Thomas Adamek, Sreekanth Madhav, and Ketan Rasal survey fault lines and geological features to create a high resolution bathymetric map of Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay.

Santa Clara’s Field Robotics Program was recently recognized as a model by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for successfully infusing real world experiences into the undergraduate program and will be included in a printed guide produced by the NAE to serve as an example of best practices for other educational institutions.

Robotics Laboratory Director and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Christopher Kitts runs the interdisciplinary field robotics program in which teams of students design, fabricate, test, and demonstrate high quality robotic systems to operate on land, sea, air and space.

“Our program was established out of the desire to provide interdisciplinary, hands-on engineering education that engaged and challenged students in exciting ways, and it has been very successful in meeting that goal,” said Kitts. Systems range from underwater robots to satellites and once operational, are deployed and operated by students to meet the specific needs of a wide range of external clients and collaborators from government, academia, industry, and nonprofit sectors.

Over the past ten years, interdisciplinary projects have included involvement by faculty and students in a wide variety of academic departments, including mechanical, electrical, computer, civil, and bioengineering, math/ computer science, physics, archeology, and business. “Our projects provide experience in planning, organizing, and managing a team, a development process, and operational activities in a fiscally and logistically sustainable manner,” said Kitts, “This creative, holistic approach inspires and motivates students and the projects afford an opportunity for honing their problem-solving and communication skills, while presenting them with engineering challenges of a caliber appropriate for graduate research.”

A typical project involves junior-level design and senior-level capstone activities, and often drives graduate student involvement through thesis research. When the system is completed and ready to be deployed, freshman and sophomore students often join the teams, learning how to safely and efficiently operate advanced engineering systems in the field.

“Santa Clara engineering is committed to providing innovative, hands-on, project-based educational programs,” said Kitts; “to be recognized by the NAE for this work is quite an honor.”