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WOMEN IN STEM | ROBOTIC FUTURES

For International Women’s Day in early March 2020, members of QUT’s Design Robotics team, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira, Amelia Luu and Dr Cori Stewart, participated in panel discussions focusing on women’s careers. The following reflections on their career journeys and interest in Design Robotics were inspired by the conversations at these events.

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira is a Senior Lecturer in QUT Interior Architecture. At the same time, she is a creative maker and transdisciplinary designer with specialisations in advanced manufacturing, digital fabrication, and parametric design. She is also one of the Chief Investigators of QUT’s Design Robotics project and ARM Hub. 

First job

My first job was volunteering at a music festival in Istanbul. I am originally from Istanbul, and the Istanbul Music Festival was one of the most inspiring music events in the city. My first professional job was working in an architectural office as an intern. I remember spending all the summer going through their material library, sorting and updating the dusty shelves full of various architectural materials and catalogues. There wasn’t Material ConneXion at the time, so the only way to find out about materials was to give the companies a call and ask for a postal delivery.

Career moments

I had several pivotal points in my career. The first one was my move to London and studying at the Architectural Association (AA) Design Research Laboratory. It changed my life in many ways: one, I got to meet my partner in life and work; and the other, I got to work with one of the most influential women in the history of architecture, Zaha Hadid.
The second pivotal point in my career was my move to Santa Barbara to UCSB, where I got to work in a very transdisciplinary environment. During my PhD, I spent two years in Translab researching immersive environments and acoustics, under the supervision of Markus Novak at UCSB Media Arts and Technology program. I had the opportunity to work with inspiring people such as Yutaka Makino, Haru Hyunkyung Ji, Graham Wakefield and Mark-David Hosale.
My last pivotal point is the move to Brisbane and beginning to work with the QUT Design Robotics Project.

Challenges

Juggling the work/life balance is one of the greatest challenges in our field. As a woman, if you want to become a mother, you need to have career breaks. This has a huge impact on the progress of your career, or the people’s perception of what you can or can’t do. For me, my partner is the greatest supporter to help me navigate this. He is always there for me and supports me in achieving my goals. Also, here in Australia, there are special support programs and exemptions for female academics to progress with their careers. As women, we shouldn’t give up on our dreams and seek opportunities and mentors that support us in achieving them.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

More support for women through flexible work hours; professional development support through leadership courses, mentoring, and training; allowing younger generations to be exposed to the potentials of design robotics through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) workshops.

Inspirations

My biggest inspiration was Zaha Hadid. My background is in architecture, and as a profession, architecture is also a very male-dominant world. In fact, it has been affected by the #MeToo movement immensely. As an Iraqi woman, who had migrated to the UK in the early 70s, Zaha Hadid later became British and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She was the first woman to win the Pritzker prize. She was an influential and inspiring woman and I was very lucky to work with her, right after graduating from the AA.

The importance of visibility

My current research takes place in the manufacturing industry, which as you might know is a very male-dominant industry. Therefore, it is important to represent women in this industry by being present at events such as “Women in Manufacturing Breakfasts”, Women in Technology platforms, etc…
As an academic, there are many ways women are supported, especially in QUT. QUT is part of an initiative called “The Athena SWAN Accreditation Framework”, which is part of SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity) and supports female researchers/ academics by providing special funding, organising Women in Stem workshops, writing retreats. Currently, I receive a grant from the QUT Women in Research Grant worth $10,000 for conducting research on Robotic Clay Cutting. I believe it is important to get stronger as a woman, so that we can mentor and support younger women to be more successful.

The change we need

I believe we should support each other and grow together. In the QUT Design Robotics research group, we have amazing women and men who mentor, guide and support one another. So far, it has been an amazing environment to work in. In general, women need to put aside negative competition and support each other more. We need to know that the more we share, the better we will all get from this collective sharing environment.

Advice to younger women

Ignore prejudices on what you can do. Focus on what you want to do and what you want to learn to be the best in your field. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive and keep yourself away from those who are negative and self-centred.
Believe in yourself! Women are strong and empowering! Step up with your dreams!

Amelia Luu

Amelia Luu is a mechatronics engineer within QUT’s Design Robotics project, where she works with industry partner UAP, a large-scale art manufacturing company, researching how to embed robotics into their workflow. I am currently developing an autonomous system to linish cast aluminium pieces.

First job

The first job I ever had was in high school working at a little juice bar in the city. I have a vivid memory of them letting 15-year old me use a machete to slice a watermelon. It was amazing fun and a great first introduction to a working environment!
My first STEM-related job was during my Mechatronic Engineering Bachelor’s degree. I worked with a research group in QUT named Biofabrication and Tissue Morphology, a lab run by Professor Mia Woodruff. They are researching advanced manufacturing in the context of fabricating patient-specific biomedical solutions. An example of this was my final year project where I designed a photogrammetry rig to help instantaneously capture a person’s face in order to 3D print custom moulds for transparent facial mask fabrication used in burn treatments. This is the kind of work that led me to custom manufacturing in Design Robotics.

Career moments

I was always interested in science, and biology in particular, and honestly chose engineering on a whim due to my general interest in STEM topics. At the end of my first year, I came across a TED talk that made all the difference: Hugh Herr’s work in bionics. He is an Associate Professor currently leading a Biomechatronics group at MIT. In this TED talk, he presented their work that helped a dancer who had lost her leg in the Boston bombings perform again. It was this TED talk and Herr’s passion that inspired me to pursue a career that could combine science, assistive technology and engineering together.

Challenges

There are definitely challenges with being a young Asian female in a white male-dominated industry, though I believe most of these challenges are a result of their unconscious bias. Rarely will people directly admit they have less regard for me because I am a woman. Instead, the challenges typically show up in more subtle or passive aggressive ways. For instance, despite being brought on a project as the only robotics expert, my advice was never trusted, always second guessed and was only taken seriously if another man agreed with me. Another example would be when I was in a discussion with a male colleague and a client. Even though I was the one leading the discussion and facilitating the meeting, the client always answered my questions to the male colleague and never directly faced or made eye contact with me. So, it always feels like there is a constant battle for a basic level of respect.
What has helped me navigate all of this is having a network of people to talk about it with. The Design Robotics team has been great for this, as everybody is incredibly supportive and open for these difficult discussions.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

I hope that we continue working towards getting better representation across the board, and for more women in senior leadership positions. I also aspire for this industry to continue being open towards multi-disciplinary collaborations as that’s where I believe the more meaningful and higher impact projects begin and flourish.

Inspirations

All the women involved with Design Robotics are inspiring as they are all doing amazing jobs and breaking glass ceilings in their respective fields, which is wonderful to see! Another local that comes to mind is Marita Cheng; I first came across her as the founder of Robogals. She won the Young Australian of the Year award in 2012, has been recognised on various influential lists, and has done a lot in the robotics industry.

The importance of visibility

The first thing I think of is representation. Growing up, Asians were stereotypically represented as the nerd with no friends in Western media. I rarely saw an Asian woman, let alone an Asian person climbing career ladders, being CEOs or living a life similar to what I currently have. However, this is definitely changing. With movies like Crazy Rich Asians and the general rise of Asian actors in Western media, there is now a push for representation of Asian people and women in all aspects of life. Representation is important because it positively impacts people to see various potential versions of yourself, and empowers them to pursue avenues that they may not have realised were available to them.

The change we need

I believe that workplaces should be working harder to foster an environment where everybody’s voice can be heard regardless of gender or position. Inclusivity and diversity are the pillars of innovation. Ultimately, the responsibility of supporting women does not only fall on women and I think that everybody – especially people in power – should also regularly check in on their unconscious bias when making decisions.

Advice to younger women

Truly learn how to back yourself, as I think it’s ingrained in women from a young age to doubt ourselves. It’s important to remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help and I have found that building a supportive network where you feel safe to share both the positive and uncomfortable feelings has been invaluable.

Dr Cori Stewart

Dr Cori Stewart is currently the CEO of ARM Hub, Associate Professor at QUT and a Chief Investigator on the Design Robotics project. The opportunity for Design Robotics was triggered from her relationship with UAP, which led to QUT developing the Design Robotics team.

First job

Like many of us in our group, I actually started out as a visual artist and did a lot of writing for newspapers about art as well. When I was about 25, I successfully applied to a Youth Arts Mentorship program. At the same time, I did an arts, culture and media policy degree. And then I went into the Brisbane City Council and became a Creative City policy officer. I was doing three things at once – just because I like to do it all.

Career moments

Getting into the Youth Arts mentorship program at the time was extraordinary as it was a paid mentorship for the better part of a year. We were teamed up with mentors and I got to understand how decisions on funding and policy settings were made and continue as a visual artist at the time.
Later I was appointed as the Creative City Policy Officer with the city council and it was just heaven for me: it was regular pay, and I got to work in arts and culture while cutting my teeth in managing politics and policy making. We wrote Brisbane’s Creative City Policy, which was a piece of work that remains important to me. I did my Masters degree on that and then a PhD. But in the Creative City policy officer role, I was in a terrific team, had the ability to learn, and could take the initiative to shape things. I had complete ownership of that job, which I lived and breathed for some time.
It’s also been great to watch the Design Robotics project flourish with a great number of people and diversity amongst us. It has become a touch point of what good collaboration looks like for many people, both in the project and outside it.

Challenges

I have mostly worked in industries where there were very few jobs at the top to aspire to. It has been a real challenge. It was never “Hey, this job’s for you” or “we’re thinking about you for this”. So, there is a lot of creating things from the ground up, like the ARM Hub. So, what might be a marker for me is when leaders of companies as well as research leaders bring opportunities to the ARM Hub, instead of me (and others) doing all that intense relationship development to make each opportunity happen. It would be especially significant and incredibly productive if more of our male leaders participated more in this way.

Wishlist for Design Robotics

ARM Hub grew out of the Design Robotics project, and Design Robotics forms a specialised group within ARM Hub. I hope that we continue to draw on our unique capabilities and generate a whole range of projects that transform industry and continue to collaborate in an exciting transdisciplinary manner. I also hope that we draw from the great diversity we have in the group: across genders and different cultural backgrounds. Even though we live the practice of collaboration every day, we forget sometimes that our ability to collaborate is our superpower. When we get to do interesting things in collaboration with other companies, they see it too.

Inspirations

I’m inspired by the many amazing women I get to spend my work and life with. In the cultural space, at the moment, I really, really admire the career and work of Margaret Atwood as well as Elizabeth Moss who features in Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. I do like Moss’s work beyond that too. I believe they’re really important icons for women.

The importance of visibility

In most of the environments I have worked there were and are a lot of women in leadership roles. But I have to say that dominantly female environments are as complicated as dominantly male environments. One reason is because as a whole, in the technology industries and in institutions including governments, women don’t often have the power networks and the financial networks. So, we were quite curtailed by that. But I did get to exist alongside a lot of women leaders.
It’s interesting that the opportunity for me to take leadership was only when I stepped outside arts and politics. Here I mean leadership where I’m running a company and have significant personal legal responsibilities. If you have a good idea, if you do the work … gosh! It’s been a lot of work. But if you just keep at it long enough and don’t crumble to that sense of imposter syndrome and learn to sit with the discomfort in all the new spaces you will enter, it is clear there is a critical role for boundary spanners who knit the whole picture together.
There was an article in the Courier Mail last week, with the headline “Tech won’t take your jobs”. It called me a tech expert and that made me very uncomfortable because I don’t see myself as a tech expert. I’m definitely a leader in the tech space but not a tech ‘expert’. While you can’t control what the media say, my first gut instinct was that the Courier Mail outed me. Of course, this is my conditioning to feel a kind of shame here, and it is the conditioning of a lot of women in their careers not to transgress boundaries and carefully manage such slippages. So, I think it is important to call out this conditioning and in response be the strong woman in unknown spaces because of what it will mean for future generations of women who will join such boundary spanning roles. I want them to know it is completely okay to sit in unknown and uncomfortable spaces, do the hard work and lead.

The change we need

I believe that anyone can look at Design Robotics as an example of watching women take on challenges with the support of a whole team. As a team we can provide diverse input that is valued across the different stakeholders and partners of the project. So, Design Robotics has become its own icon with its own value and merit. But beyond that, I still think that we women need to work together at the highest levels and demonstrate what it means to support women in the media and through political leadership. The reality is, how do we do it every day? How do we make sure that everyone has a voice given their position, gender and the knowledge they are bringing to the table? I have often not been in the position where I’ve been able to make decisions, but when I am able to influence decisions I like to check-in. When someone says, “Oh, you know she’s not ready for that opportunity”, I ask why?

Advice for younger women

Try to find those leadership opportunities and as soon as you can, take them. Be okay with big steps and not knowing everything. Leadership is about how you approach it, not what you know.
A shout out to the Design Robotics, ARM and UAP teams, and with special thanks to Dr Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Dr Claire Brophy, Dr Jing Peng, Peta Portelli, Amanda Bell, Emma Lane, and Amanda Harris.
The original article features on 12th June 2020 on Parlour. Edited by Susie Ashworth.

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Knowledge Sharing

BRINGING THE JOY | WORLD OPEN INNOVATION CONFERENCE

Dr Claire Brophy
Design Robotics Research Fellow

Dr Brophy presented a research paper on how design methods were employed to map the ARM Hub ecosystem at the World Open Innovation Congress (WOIC) in Rome in December 2019. Open Innovation is a way of thinking about and managing innovation where firms purposely manage their approach to innovation by bringing in innovations from outside their business and also allowing innovations from inside their business to be developed further by others. 
Tell us about what WOIC is about. What were you doing out there?
Claire: This was the 6th annual World Open Innovation Conference. It’s an annual event that brings together representatives from industry and academia to focus on the emerging field of open innovation. The attendees were predominantly from Business and Management backgrounds. My presentation was about the ARM Hub – (the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Hub) and a design workshop we conducted to visualise what the ARM Hub could be, and who it would represent. The workshop used participatory design approaches, so really tangible, creative ways to explore the abstract concept of open innovation. At the conference, it was perhaps the only one that took this kind of approach to the concept of open innovation. 

The paper about the Design Robotics Workshop on Open Innovation was presented at WOIC. It featured design approaches such as the Tangible Mapping Method.

 
Given that you presented design approaches, how do you think it was received in this business-academic setting?
Claire: I was nervous about presenting to an entirely new field,  but it was actually really well received. One of the conference chairs thanked me later for “bringing the joy” to our session. It  felt great to bring design in approaches and invigorate the conversation around open innovation. After the session, a lot of the attendees agreed that taking this tangible approach levelled the playing field and was a creative, engaging way to approach unfamiliar concepts. Educators in particular, shared their own experiences about how they are trying to incorporate engaging methods like this into their teaching.
 
Do you have any favourite sessions?
Claire: Yes, so many good ones. The one by Francesco Starace, CEO of Enel, the Italian utilities provider He spoke at length about the way he introduced open innovation approaches in this massive, traditional Italian company and the challenges that he had around that. They tried out different creative approaches such as encouraging staff to share their failures in order to change the culture around “don’t come to me with problems only come to me with solutions”.  And he also talked about the way they are finding transformative and innovative ways to adapt and retrofit advanced technologies to old machines. He talked about “listening to the machines” which struck a chord with me within regards to my work in Design Robotics. He explained how traditionally technicians would be able to “hear” that the machines are having problems; that there is a language in the sounds of the machines. His story was really interesting around that kind of successful approach to innovation.
Another one was from notable Professor Anita McGahan of University of Toronto. The broader theme around the conference was around how to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She gave this impassioned call-to-action at the end of her keynote. That we cannot possibly carry on the way that we are carrying on and we need widespread dramatic changes of perspective. Her talk resonated with me for quite some time after the conference. 
Professor Henry Chesbrough (he coined “open innovation”) had an interesting wrap-up. He spoke wanting to open up the conversation between industry and academia to better facilitate this flow of knowledge from academia into industry. He shared that the main feedback that had received over the conference was that this relationship between academia and industry is underdeveloped. It is important to bridge this gap. I feel that design – and the work the Design Robotics team is doing in our partnership between academia (QUT/RMIT) and industry (UAP) is a great example of this.
 
Do you plan to head to WOIC in 2020? What do you think you would do?
Claire: Yes, it would be great to go back. It was a really nice opportunity to present our work to a global audience and introduce the creative open innovation approach we are taking. I think for next time, it would be good to run our work as a workshop at the conference. I’ll be bringing joy back!
 
Conference Name: World Open Innovation Conference 2019
Date: 12-13 December 2019
Location: Luiss University, Rome, Italy
Program: Link
 
Related work
Advanced Robotics Manufacturing: Arm Hub Announced

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_ Industry News Knowledge Sharing

INDUSTRY 4.0 | THE FUTURE OF WORK


As we gear-up for digital disruption, the future of how we will live and work in Australia is uncertain. Artificial Intelligence and developments around robotic and autonomous systems of Industry 4.0 offer opportunities to rethink human/robot interaction. Design Robotics brought together academia, industry and government to this IFE Future of Working And Living Breakfast to have a connected and dynamic discussion about the development of skills, training and the question of how to shape future technologies. Hosted by QUT’s Institute for Future Environments and the Design Lab, the session began with the Hon. Cameron Dick, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, began by reiterating the Palaszczuk Government’s vision of the advanced manufacturing sector to be an international leader by 2026 as evident by the ARM Hub partnership.

Future of Working and Living

The session began with Dr Sean Gallagher discussing how key exponential digital technology, digital hyperconnectivity and digital ecosystems is changing the face of work. He went on to discuss how digital technologies are going to take on routine and predictable tasks but the current mindset is unable to envision that future work will focus on creativity and innovation. This was illustrated through various examples such as UAP’s work with robots, remote mowing systems and a telecom company that has a specialised ‘disruption ready’ workgroup. He ended his talk with 10 ways to Reimagine Work, which included having agile flat-structured working groups, a risk-taking and resilient mindset and most importantly, that ‘ideas’ are going to be the most valuable feature of future work.

Labour in the digital economy: A looming crisis of (in)decent work? 


Prof Paula McDonald discussed the precariousness of decent work with the rise of gig work in the digital age. While the talk covered the dichotomy of technology i.e. where the price of being connected is the loss of privacy, she documented ways that workers were resisting being monitored and surveilled.  She concluded her talk by recognizing that as future work gets diverse and individualised, it is important to ensure standards of decent work and job security. 

Design Robotics: UAP’s Collaboration between IMCRC, QUT, RMIT


This talk showcased UAP’s collaboration with the IMRC, QUT, RMIT on the Design Robotics for Mass Customisation Manufacturing project (2017-2022), to use innovative robotic vision systems and software user-interfaces to reduce the integration time between design and custom manufacturing. Matthew Tobin championed the use of cross-reality technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in manufacturing to reduce waste, empower creative design and support shorter delivery times. 

Q&A
  • Why and how are companies in Australia using design and technologies to drive the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to develop design and technologies for the Future of Working and Living?
  • How can Australian universities and industry work together to foster skill development to address how we will live and work in the future?
  • How does policy impact and inform the Future of Working and Living?
IFE FUTURE OF WORKING AND LIVING BREAKFAST

Website | Eventbrite
Date: Wed 2nd October 2019 
Time: 7am-9am
Venue: QUT Design Lab, Gardens Point.

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JING PENG | BETTER ROBOT GRINDING

Jing Peng
Postdoctoral Research Fellow 

 
Favourite quote: “Self-discipline and Social Commitment” Tsinghua University’s motto 
Favourite Robot: Baymax, the soft inflatable robotic healthcare assistant.
Why robots?
Robots can improve the lives of people by making human work safer and more precise. For example, surgical robots can offer less pain and a faster recovery to patients.
Tell us a bit more about your background. How did you end up in Design Robotics?
My expertise is in developing ultra-precision low-damage polishing tools and machinery for chemical-mechanical polishing. I completed my BEng in Measurement, Control Technology and Instruments and my PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Tsinghua University. There I co-invented (with Prof. Xinchun Lu and Dewen Zhao) a conditioner for conditioning the polishing pad and we got a granted patent for that. The patent is cited by global market leaders, e.g. Siltronic AG, Fujikoshi Machinery.
My PhD thesis was on ultra-precision low-damage polishing and its mechanism for polishing KDP crystals. KDP crystals are soft, brittle and deliquescent. To achieve high performance as frequency convertors in high power laser systems, they need to have a super-smooth surface. To further investigate the crystals’ mechanical properties, I joined Prof. Liangchi Zhang’s group at UNSW and carried out nanoindentation tests with a conical diamond indenter. We discovered the elastic-plastic deformation of KDP crystals under nanoindentation. Then I returned to Tsinghua and built the theoretical model for polishing and through lots of polishing tests achieved surface roughness of 0.62 nm* for KDP by optimizing various machining conditions and slurry formulation. 
After graduation, I worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Surgical Robotics and Soft Robotics at the University of Hong Kong. While leading the surgical robot project, I co-invented (with Prof. Zheng Wang, Prof. Zhiqiang Chen and Prof. James Lam) arm units and surgery robot systems and we received a granted patent for that. The project team built generations of surgical robot prototypes with 6mm diameter robot arm. These are tiny enough to go through natural orifices with a dexterity of 7 DOF and large output force to perform surgery. I also designed and fabricated soft actuators for a soft robotic manipulator project.
All of these varied experiences set the stage for me to work with robots for advanced manufacturing in Design Robotics.
*nm= a nanometer, which is 1/1,000,000,000 of a meter; 0.62 nm surface variation is a surface variation of less than 1/100000th of the thickness of a human hair.
Tell us a little more about the problem you are solving in Design Robotics.
I am adding pneumatic-controlled soft actuation into Design Robotics and integrating precisely controlled pneumatic soft actuation with industrial robots and advanced computer vision to realize automated high-quality sanding, grinding and polishing of UAP sculptures. I am also doing mechanical design for the linishing tests.
What has been your biggest joy with the project so far?
I have been part of Design Robotics since October 2019, so I am still new to the team. I get to work with great design and engineering professionals which is a wonderful experience for me. But mostly, getting to work with Prof. Jonathan Roberts, my supervisor and robotics researcher with experience in both academia and industry, has been my highlight so far. 
 
To connect with Jing and learn more about her work:
Design RoboticsQUT Profile  | LinkedIn | Google Scholar 

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Design Robotics at ADR 2019

Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira presented the paper “From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture” at the Annual Design Research Conference 2019, Monash University in early October 2019. The paper was co-written by Dr Glenda Caldwell, Dr Jared Donovan, Dr Muge Belek Fialho Teixeira and Liz Brogden. Below is a summary based on the paper that was presented.
From Open Innovation to Design-led Manufacturing: Cases of Australian Art and Architecture
Design Robotics places design at the forefront of robotic research to enable design-led manufacturing. UAP, a global manufacturer of urban artworks and architectural facades, is finding ways to adopt robotics into its manufacturing. The QUT Design Robotics research group and RMIT are collaborating with UAP on an Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) funded project (2017-2022). 
‘Open Innovation’ describes how an organisation can purposively manage inward flows of external knowledge and outward flows of internal knowledge to increase its ability to innovate in line with its business model (West & Bogers, 2014). In this research, we wanted to find out how open innovation can be employed as a strategy for architectural innovation within a design-led manufacturing organization, such as UAP.
 

Open Innovation Case study: Artist Emily Floyd with Poll the Parrot.
Photo Credits: UAP Company.

 
We examined two projects from UAP’s commercial work that employed an open innovation strategy to explore the potential of advanced manufacturing technologies in collaboration with external partners. These built works demonstrate novel approaches to integrating robotic systems and virtual reality into the ideation, communication, design development, and manufacture required to deliver each project. We worked with our industry partner to collect on-site observations and findings, which show that it takes internal know-how and decision-making processes required to integrate advanced manufacturing technologies into workflows. 
Read the full paper here.
Conference Name: The 2nd Annual Design Research Conference
Date: 3-4 October 2019
Location: Monash University, Caulfield, Australia
Related work
UAP (Urban Art Projects): Transgressions between making, craft, and technology for architects and artists
Reference:
West, J., & Bogers, M. (2014). Leveraging External Sources of Innovation: A Review of Research on Open Innovation. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4), 814–831.

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing Project

RoboBlox | Making Art with Robots

RoboBlox is a 4X4 3D Blox artwork which comprises of a sculptural frieze, interactive artwork and a ‘making of RoboBlox’ video (see below).  While the artwork is inspired by Thieri Foulc’s 2D-Morpholo Tile Game and the Oulipo French Movement, the muse of RoboBlox’s sculptural frieze is the windy Brisbane/Maiwar river. The artwork uses rules and constraints to trigger the creation of the blocks which also serves as the basis of interactive creative engagement between the public and artwork. To create the individual block designs, QUT Design Robotics and UQ researchers coded a novel computational workflow into an industrial robotic arm to hotwire-cut polystyrene into the desired designs. 

The making of RoboBlox Video
As robots will be commonly used in design education and fabrication, this artwork is an exploration into finding novel ways to communicate robotic design processes. This is important as designers and architectural manufacturers are likely to rely on robotic systems for the production of design and architectural work in the coming future. In keeping with this approach, a video which explains the design and manufacturing process of RoboBlox was placed within the exhibition. It elaborates on the workflow where open-source plug-ins were used particularly to develop a web-based interactive design platform and code that translates 2D graphics into 3D forms. It further documents the eventual robotic fabrication of the frieze pieces.

Roboblox, Museum of Brisbane.
Photo credit: Shuwei Zhang

RoboBlox was exhibited in Brisbane, Australia at: 

 
More on RoboBlox and related work:

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Connecting Users and Robots | At Claire Brophy’s desk


Name: Claire Brophy
Design Robotics Role: Post-Doc Research Fellow 
Favourite quote: “There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
Favourite Robot Podcasts: Well, not a podcast, but a lecture. And not just about robots, but close enough. 2017 Boyer Lectures: Fast, Smart and Connected: What is it to be Human, and Australian, in a Digital World.
 
Why robots?
Well, for me as a researcher, it’s the challenge of doing something that I know little about – robotics. It’s also about the cutting edge technology of Design Robotics that is part of the next major transformation in manufacturing. I am interested in how we balance the use of these advanced technologies and address the concerns of the people working with them every day.
 
What is your background? How did you end up in Design Robotics?
My background is pretty eclectic: I have worked in journalism and hospitality management. I, then, pursued an education in industrial design. My PhD looked at how older people interact with communication technologies and how these technologies should be designed for older users. It was less about what buttons they press and in what order, and more about the reasons they are engaging with the technology. I was keen to find out what keeps them using tech, the social fabric that ties them to the tech and the people they communicate with. Interestingly, older users expect values such as respect to be embedded in the technology. This research challenged the stereotypes of ageing and definitions of what it means to be old. This body of work, other research projects and my relationships with my colleagues led me to be part of the Design Robotics project.
 
Tell us a bit about the Design Robotics project, and what you do within the project.
The Design Robotics project is a collaboration between Urban Art Projects (UAP), two universities – QUT and RMIT, and the IMCRC. UAP is a bespoke manufacturer of public art and architectural installations. The Design Robotics team are teaching robots to ‘see’ so that they can take over some of the traditionally toxic and often dangerous manufacturing tasks. My role in Design Robotics is to bring a human-centred perspective to the team, surrounded by very clever roboticists and engineers. So my focus is more on the socio-cultural aspects that influence how people might be able to interact, and expect to interact with robots. 
 
Tell us a little more about the problem you are solving in Design Robotics.
To understand how a robot can begin to take on tasks that have traditionally been done by hand,  it is important to understand all aspects of the task itself. To bridge that gap, we study the way a task is traditionally done to transfer this knowledge to the robot. For example, we have worked with an expert linisher at UAP (removing the excess material from a metal object to leave a polished finish). It is a highly-skilled, physically arduous and time-consuming work, and there are endless challenges in trying to transfer this skill to a robot – both in understanding the human perspective and the physical constraints of the work – and the technology perspective, which involves teaching the robot to be able to do it. So in the context of this study, we are trying to understand how workshop staff uses their tools and the decisions they make in using the tools.
 
What has been your biggest joy with the project so far?
It’s about the people, they are an excellent and inspiring group of people.
A pleasure to work with every day.
 
What is your next big goal with the project?
This December, I will be presenting at the World Open Innovation Conference in Rome. It will cover our work on exploring ‘open innovation’ from a design perspective within the context of the upcoming Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub in Queensland. And in parallel, I will be focussing on developing a workplace study on understanding the manufacturing work at UAP, so we can design for the best human-robot interaction possible.
 
To connect with Claire and learn more about her work:
Design Robotics | LinkedIn | QUT eprints

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Industry News Knowledge Sharing News

ARM Hub is hiring!

Boy Walking (in progress) – Ronnie Van Host; courtesy of UAP

 
The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Hub, a collaboration between industry, research, institutions and government, launches in 2020 with the aim of bringing cutting-edge robotics and design to the manufacturing sector in Queensland. The key partners of the project are QUT, UAP (previously Urban Art Projects), CSIRO and IMCRC and the Queensland Government with the Government investing $7.71 million over the next four years to support the establishment of the Hub. 
If you want to see your amazing business and organisational skills accelerate the digital transformation of industry in Australia, you should apply now for one of the following roles. 
 

Chief Operating Officer

Join the senior leadership team of a unique innovation hub driving the digital transformation of Australian manufacturing. The COO will work in partnership with the Chief Executive to drive sustainability and growth through operational effectiveness and highly-skilled stakeholder management.
For more information, click here.
 

Business Development Manager

This senior position will drive success through high-level partnerships and collaboration between industry, government and research institutions at the cutting edge of industry 4.0 transformation.
For more information, click here.
 

ARM Hub Coordinator

The ARM Hub Coordinator will work directly to support the Chief Executive, managing the flow of information, projects and administrative priorities.
For more information, click here.
 

Communications Officer

This is a  flexible and exciting part-time role that awaits a creative, autonomous communications professional with enviable digital expertise. It will involve digital marketing skills and a strategic mindset to support this small, high-performance team driving innovation in advanced manufacturing.
For more information, click here.