by David Whitney and Jesse C. Polhemus
In 2014, the Northeast Robotics Colloquium (NERC) brought more than 150 participants to Brown University’s Sayles Hall. This year, Professor Stefanie Tellex of Brown’s Computer Science Department, who founded the conference, serves on its steering committee, and is one of the current organizers, is hoping for even more.
“Last year’s event was really fun,” says Stefanie. “I think it's good for undergrads and new graduate students to experience a conference before they've necessarily published a paper. It shows what research is all about, gets them plugged in.”
NERC brings together roboticists in the northeastern United States and Canada in an event that’s simultaneously a research meeting, a networking event, a job fair, and a showcase for established and up-and-coming robot companies. Last year, drones that can deliver packages bumped up against robots that have already moved millions of greenhouse plants, and aerospace resins met 3D printers.
NERC also incorporates a large poster session for academic groups and booths for private robotic firms. This year, speakers that include Professor Andrew Bennett of Olin College, Professor Leslie Kaelbling of MIT CSAIL, and Professor Sangbae Kim of MIT ME will cover different aspects of moving robotics forward in terms of theoretical ability and practical integration in society. Various events are sponsored by private robotics firms who hope to facilitate skill transfer between groups as well as recruit students and researchers.
Ultimately, NERC’s goal is to promote the kind of healthy and well-connected robotics community that will be essential in fueling the field's rapid growth in the coming decade. This year, the event will be held all day long on November 7 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Newell Hall, Atwater Kent Laboratories. Full details are at http://nerc.mit.edu/.