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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Kerstin Haring

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Aurora VanDam

Ritchie School Student Reporter

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Kerstin Haring, assistant professor, PhD, and director of the Humane Robot Technology Laboratory joined the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science last Winter quarter. Since then, she has settled in quite well.  

Haring’s background is in computer science, robotics, and she is also interested in artificial intelligence (AI) learning. As a kid, Haring loved computer games and computer programming. She completed her diplom (undergraduate and master’s degrees) in her home country at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Haring first saw robots at college and her fascination bloomed. After finishing undergrad, she moved to Japan to work on her PhD at the University of Tokyo. It was here that she witnessed a whole different side of robotics and how they are represented and built in different countries. Haring continued her research as a postdoctoral research fellow at Waseda University in Tokyo and a postdoctoral researcher at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. From there, she joined the Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science faculty. 

Haring has stayed busy around the Ritchie School since arriving last winter. She is continuing her research on robots at DU, having founded the Humane Robot Technology laboratory. She plans to research robot-human interactions, human-technology interactions, and ethics in robotics. Haring said, “Robots have this entertaining factor, and they’re very persuasive and you can’t really help but want to engage with them.”  

A piece of this laboratory includes a small grant she was recently awarded in partnership with Associate Professor of the Practice Dan Pittman, PhD. They are developing a project called “Do You Want to Build a Bot?” The goal of this project is to allow people to assemble robots with a certain attribute or capability. Haring said about the project, “Usually now we just have robots and we ask people what you think that robot can do, but we want to reverse that research question.” The end goal is to provide some sort of webpage that people can visit to essentially build their own customized robot.  

Haring and Pittman are already expanding the program and beginning to look into how they can research “underlying machine learning” as Haring put it, so they can make predictions about specific robot designs. “This is the next step.” Haring said.  

 In addition to her many research grants and the robotics lab, she teaches computer science and robotics classes in the Ritchie School. Haring also recently served on the program committee for the International Conference on Social Robotics in Golden, Colorado—though it was held virtually this year. She is also on the committee for the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction which will be happening virtually in March. Haring is looking for student volunteers who may be interested in robotics to attend and help out with the conference in March.  

The Humane Robot Technology lab is open to any student interested in conducting research or learning more about robot interaction and construction. For any students who are curious about her research, the conference, or robotics reach out to Haring to discuss or get involved more. 

The Ritchie School is proud of all that Haring has accomplished thus far and we can’t wait to see what she does next!