In 2004, five Vassar faculty - John Long, biology; Ken Livingston, psychology and cognitive science; and Tom Ellman, Luke Hunsberger, and Brad Richards, computer science - launched the Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, which, to the best of our knowledge, is the first such enterprise at an undergraduate institution in the U.S. Funded by a $471,000 National Science Foundation grant and $120,000 in additional funding from the college, the I.R.R.L. invites faculty and students to explore the technology of autonomous machines, the simulation of such systems, and the use of these technologies in studies of telepresence, virtual reality, and related phenomena. What is particularly innovative, and also characteristically "Vassar," about I.R.R.L. is the I. The idea is not simply for faculty and students in these disciplines to share space and resources, but to create a fertile environment for cross-disciplinary connections.
Photo credit: Will Faller