Area High Schools Participate in Social Robot Design Challenge

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With a $1.1-million grant from NSF, Project EMAR is inviting students from seven Puget Sound high schools to help design a robot that will measure and reduce stress in teens.

More About EMAR

Researchers at the University of Washington and University of Washington Tacoma have partnered with local high schools to design a robot that will measure and reduce stress in teens.

Students from seven high schools are participating in the Social Robot Design Challenge for Project EMAR (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot). The Challenge began in January and culminates in a showcase March 24 on the UW campus in Seattle. Students will present their prototype to a panel of experts who will then provide feedback on each team’s design. The showcase is free and open to the public.

The Challenge is part of a larger effort by the EMAR team to engage students in STEM, specifically design and engineering. Researchers are currently developing the fourth iteration of EMAR. Each version of the robot has been shaped by input from teens during participatory design sessions.

Teens suffer more stress than any other age group and are more negatively impacted by it in terms of mental health, physical health and suicidal ideation. EMAR is an attempt to understand how students experience stress in real-time. The long-term goal is to have EMAR live in a high school, interact with students to reduce stress and collect data that will help administrators create effective interventions.

The data EMAR collects is numeric. For example, a question might be: how stressed are you? Students would provide a response on a scale from 1-100 by using a touchscreen on the surface of EMAR. Data will be aggregated to provide a school-wide assessment for both administrators and students. No individually identifiable data will be collected.

“This is a community-based project where we are working with local schools and students that are heavily involved in this design and development,” said Emma Rose, co-principal investigator on the EMAR project and an assistant professor in UW Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences. “This ensures we are making decisions about the design that meet the needs and standards of the communities we are working in.”

The project was recently awarded a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The Design Challenge represents the first part of a three-year plan. Next year researchers plan to work with two schools to develop educational activities around robot interactions. Finally, in the third year, the researchers will send a fully autonomous EMAR to a high school for field testing and to explore the social impact of a social robot in a school setting.

The team of researchers includes Elin Björling from Human-Centered Design and Engineering and Maya Cakmak from Computer Science and Engineering, both at UW in Seattle; and Emma Rose from Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Tacoma.

What: Social Robot Design Challenge Showcase
When: Saturday, March 24, 2018, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: University of Washington (Seattle campus), HUB (Husky Union Building) Lyceum (Room 160)
Who: Students from Ballard High School (Seattle Public Schools) , Nathan Hale High School (Seattle), Henry Foss IB World School (Tacoma Public Schools), Oakland High School (Tacoma), Roosevelt High School (Seattle), SAMI (Science and Math Institute - Tacoma) and Chief Leschi Schools (Puyallup Tribe of Indians).
The event is free and open to the public. 

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / March 15, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communciations, 253-692-4536 or