Murphy Wonsick is passionate about robotics. Staying back after school hours in her high school to work on advanced maths problems and completing an internship at NASA paved her way to achieve this dream. A PhD student, she is now working on one of the world’s most advanced humanoid robots at Northeastern University’s NASA robot Valkyrie.
The project is led by Padir and has a team of researchers of Northeastern University working on it to perform advanced research and development work. NASA hopes to send Valkyrie to Mars and perform activities before a human crew arrives. This 6-feet 290-pound robot is expected to play a huge role in future deep space exploration ventures of NASA. As a part of this project, Wonsick is trying to figure out how a human-robot combination can work out in space exploration. The idea is to involve robots and human beings together to complete space missions. “For a spacewalk, instead of sending two humans into this high-risk situation, why not send a human and a robot?” Wonsick asks.
However, such a venture comes with its own challenges. When faced with unexpected situations and challenges, can a robot help the human in overcoming it as two humans may succeed? Wonsick says that her work is inspired by real life human interactions. A robot and a human working together, she says, is no different from two differently sized humans trying to perform a task together. Though the work is both challenging and frustrating, Wonsick finds pleasure in being able to tackle these. She believes that we can teach robots to clear out differences the way humans do in everyday life.
N Malavika Mohan