Robotics and Middle East lectures this week

This week, the University Lecture Series will provide two events that are at opposite ends of the disciplinary spectrum. Carnegie Mellon robotics professor Ralph Hollis will speak about the Robotics Institute’s development of “ballbots,” robots that are able to act and move in a manner more similar to humans. Meanwhile, Israeli storyteller Noa Baum will also seek to bridge a gap, not between robots and humans, but between Israelis and Palestinians. Her performance will combine the political histories and personal memories of both groups in an attempt to forge unity between them.

Hollis will present a lecture on Thursday titled “Ballbot: A New Locomotion Technology for Mobile Robots.” He will discuss the Robotics Institute’s plan to develop robots with the height, width, weight, and balance capabilities of a person. The field has been previously unstudied, and Hollis is one of its pioneers. Such a machine will be able to transcend the physical limitations that affect current robots, which have wider bases, lower centers of gravity, and lower accelerations that prevent them from being able to move through doorways and around larger objects.

Hollis will discuss the overall design and mechanics of the robots as well as plans for future enhancements.

Hollis is a faculty member of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, which operates within the College of Engineering, and the director of the Microdynamic Systems Laboratory, located within the Robotics Institute. He has served on the editorial boards of two scientific journals, the [ITAL]Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering: Structures, Devices, and Systems[ITAL], and the [ITAL]IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation[ITAL]. He has also served on several government panels.

The event will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the Adamson Wing, Baker Hall 136A.

Storyteller and consultant Noa Baum will present stories from both Israeli and Palestinian women in a performance titled “A Land Twice Promised” on Saturday. Baum, who is Israeli, will combine her memories and her mother’s stories with those of a Palestinian woman named Jumana whom she met and spoke to at length while living in the United States.

The conglomeration of these anecdotes will demonstrate the complex role that the city of Jerusalem plays in the collective memories of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Baum is a member of the National Storytelling Network. She has been performing this piece for the past two years at American churches and college campuses.

Her performance will begin at 8 p.m. in Kresge Theatre in the College of Fine Arts. The program will run approximately 75 minutes.

The event is co-sponsored by the University Lecture Series and the Middle East Peace Forum of Pittsburgh.