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Mechanical Engineering - FEA



Full-day Forum, International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 24, 2018


Humanitarian robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence technologies will play an ever-increasing role in global development, particularly in developing economies, in the coming years sooner than one might think or be willing to admit. We are already witnessing several instantiations of such applications in established domains ranging from manufacturing and defense to emerging areas such as disaster response, firefighting, and education, to name a few (for instance, see (RAS SIGHT for a listing of the projects being carried out under the auspices of the IEEE RAS Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology). The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development consists of seventeen Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) that include building resilient infrastructures for sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation (Goal 9) to strengthening and revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development (Goal 17) among others.

Adoption of emerging technologies tends to be slow in developing countries due to reasons that are usually beyond GDP rates and standard of living indices. Whilst the potential of these technologies is for the most part undeniable, the challenge lies in making them reliable, cost-effective and easily accessible for the masses by taking into account socio-economic, cultural, environmental, and sustainability factors. Additionally, ethical, legal, and societal considerations of robotics, automation, and other emerging AI technologies are of paramount importance as the demarcation lines between individual privacy, safety, and security and those of the collective society get blurred without timely governance and regulation. To address these concerns, the Sustainable Humanitarian Technologies Forum will take on the above issues centered on the following three themes:

  • Robotics, Automation, and AI Technologies for the benefit of humanity
  • Technology-Policy and Ethical, Legal and Societal (ELS) Aspects of Emerging Technologies
  • Global South Considerations (particularly those of developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America)

The Forum will bring together experts and thinkers from both technology and public policy domains. The format will consist of keynote addresses and regular presentations with a mini panel discussion after each thematic session covering the gamut of issues stemming not only from research, development, and deployment standpoints but also those from public perception of robotics, automation, and AI.

As a record of the Forum, we intend to capture key points from speakers, salient points from the discussions, identify missing gaps and future steps, and summarize them in a post-event White Paper to formulate action items.



Professor Salah Sukkarieh

Professor of Robotics and Intellighent systems
Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics

The role of Field Robotics in Food Production:

The cost reduction in robotic technologies is opening up various opportunities to support the need of emerging and developing countries. One of these is in food production and in particular producing nutritious food. There are a number of challenges including ICT education, economic justification, and a supporting technology ecosystem, all of which are required to form a sustainable outcome. In this talk an overview of some of the agriculture robotics activities being undertaken at the ACFR in STEM, indigenous agriculture, and developing countries will be presented along with the challenges being faced.

Professor Bradley Nelson

Multi-Scale Robotics Lab
Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems,
ETH Zürich

Technology, Surgery, and Sustainable Development:

One of the key sustainable development goals promoted by the United Nations is good health and well-being. While impressive prgoress is being made worldwide in treating infectious disease, a larger fraction of human disease requires surgery. Unfortunately, more than five billion people on our planet do not have access to even basic surgical procedures. In this talk, I will discuss surgery in the devloping world, which has been recently called "the neglected stepchild of global health". While a multi-pronged, concerted effort is required to address this problem, technology must play a role. I will overview a few projects, some of which come from the medical robotics community, that are developing potential solutions that may result in increased access to surgery at lower cost with better outcomes.


​Welcome from Forum Organizers (Raj Madhavan & Daniel Asmar)
AM Session: Robotics, Automation, and AI Technologies for the Benefit of Humanity
Forum Keynote #1: Salah Sukkarieh (The Univ. of Sydney, Australia) 
The Role of Field Robotics in Food Production

Mónica Abarca, Carlos Saito, Javier, Cerna, Antonio Angulo, Francisco Cuéllar (speaker), Field Tests of an Hexacopter for Air Quality Monitoring at High Altitudes, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Engineering Department, Lima, San Miguel, Perú​
Kavita Krishnaswamy (speaker) and Tim Oates, Increasing Quality of Life via Robotics in Developing Economies for People with Disabilities and Seniors, University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), USA
Raj Madhavan (speaker), The RAS-SIGHT Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge, HRT​, LLC, USA
​Q&A and Panel Discussion

Conference Lunch
PM Session: Global South Considerations
Forum Keynote #2: Brad Nelson (ETH, Zürich)
Technology, Surgery, and Sustainable Development
​Cecilia Tapia-Siles, Oscar Urquidi-Gandarillas (speaker), and Markus Pakleppa, Prosthetic Hands in Developing Countries: A Simple Manufacturing Procedure, School of Technical Development and Innovation, Universidad Privada Boliviana, Bolivia & University of Dundee, UK
Ruwan Gopura (speaker), Development of Post-conflict Sri Lanka: Role of Humanitarian Technology, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka
Imad Elhajj (speaker), Zaher Dawy, Aline Germani, and Hala Ghattas, Humanitarian Engineering: A Health Perspective, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
​Q&A and Panel Discussion
Closing Remarks & Adjourn

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