projects course was created and implemented for the development
of theatrical scenarios employing robots as actors. The course was
created out of the Department of Mechanical Engineering but was
offered as an interdisciplinary course to Cooper Union students
of the Engineering, Art and Architecture Schools. The projects took
the form of original theatrical scenarios with robotic characters.
Working in teams of three or four students from varied disciplines,
students developed imaginative plays, commercial products, stories
and film and animated works. Projects were geared for production
via a telerobotic website — an on-line theater space for robots
as actors that is manipulated by remote visitors to the web site.
Projects occupied a real physical space at the Cooper Union where
the repertory company of robot actors "live". This course
consciously merged art and engineering to push new frontiers in
the cyberlife-forms emerging on the web. The paradox of self-identity
in remote presence is a growing issue. We address such issues by
creation of, and participation in, a webcast robotic stage production
and other robotic scenarios.
The course was called EID111: Design, Illusion and
Realty: Robotics and Theater.
CREATE THIS COURSE ON YOUR CAMPUS
Propose the development of a new course to improve undergraduate
Science, Math, Engineering and Technical (SMET) education for both
majors and non-majors, extending student diversity. The course is
an adaptation and implementation of two technologies, the world-wide-web
and robotics, plus a teaching method, in a single course. The teaching
method is the use of theatrical performance of robots on the web
as class project. Theatrical performance becomes a container for
the technologies as well as a medium for dissemination and teaching
with world-wide audiences and participants. The proposed course
is targeted at all levels of college students and all majors.
An introduction should be written that describes the goals of the
course and discusses why the two or more interdisciplinary subjects
are being brought together for the course. It should also outline
what will be expected of the students for the semester.
Structure and Goals
Course structure should consist of four phases: exposure, exploration,
development and presentation. The four phases can easily be applied
to any other advanced interdisciplinary subject matter such as art
and biology, energy and environment, history and film.
The exposure phase introduces the student via films and readings,
to mind-stretching concepts and cases involving creativity, technology,
mythology and coerced links between concepts which are normally
disjoint, such as robotics and theater, art and science, freedom
In the exploration phase, students launch into research of individual
interest, with an eye to a course project. This phase drives students
towards coherent concepts for their projects.
Weekly class discussions change from conceptual experimentation
to finding solutions for implementation problems. These include
limitations of media to express concepts, seeking alternative technologies
to implement difficult mechanisms, or rephrasing a dramatic episode
proposed for final presentation.
The presentation phase involves projecting of ideas and personality
to an audience, organizing stage time, and wrapping the concepts
into a choreographed performance with dramatic closure.
Implementation consists of folding your own content into the
four phases. Establish a source list of readings and films, schedule
assignments in reading, and proceed with the timetable appropriate
to your calendar. Each phase should take roughly 25% of the course
period. In addition, coordinate with the administrators of your
institutional curricula so that you have the wholehearted support
of administrators and colleagues for this endeavor. Use a search
engine to find collaborative educational programs, and then refine
the search with your content discipline interests.
Assignments consist of written reports on online and offline
readings in the culture, socio-economic theory and general history
of the course content and of the end results of former collaborative
projects between the varied disciplines. Students also keep a journal
of project progress. The semester project is the main assignment.
The Syllabus delineates the source materials and assignments
for each week of the course and includes a timeline for the final
Course Resources is both an online and offline bibliography
for the course, and information as to where the resources can be
Faculty adopt the methodology successfully applied in the NSF
Gateway program as exhibited in the Chart for Course Assessment.
Note that in objectives of student development, ABET criteria and
outcomes are covered. The measured outcomes will be used by the
instructors to steer subsequent courses, and by the Chairperson
and Dean to guide curriculum enhancements. A student questionnaire
should be administered at the end of the course. It will provide
important assessment for all three staff groups.
Undergraduate Student Projects
gives a cross-section of some of the projects that evolved from
our course. It is recommended to allow students to find their way
through assigned materials and independent research towards their
choice of a project.
Undergraduate Student Research Papers
These are examples of research papers by students in support
of their projects.
Graduate Student Thesis Abstract
James Cole, a graduate student in the Cooper Union Department
of Mechanical Engineering, completed his thesis on implementation
of a web-enabled communication platform for a single ActivMedia
PeopleBot to be used in Cooper Union’s Robotic Theatre.
Faculty should be encouraged to create statements summing up
their experience in creating and teaching the course.