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October 14, 2008

Knuth: Developing Robotic Scientists for Space Exploration

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UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with robot built from LEGOs.

UAlbany Professor Kevin Knuth with a robot built from LEGOs. (Photo Mark Schmidt) 

Kevin Knuth has a laboratory in the physics department of the University at Albany that is filled with LEGOs. The bricks are relatively cheap and can be used to rapidly prototype a robot's body. Knuth's robots are being programmed to solve such problems as mapping complex terrain.

At UAlbany Day on Saturday, Oct. 25, he will give a demonstration on Robotics and Robotic Exploration in Life Sciences Room 143 at 10:45 a.m.

Knuth is interested in robots and space exploration. As a professor holding a joint appointment in informatics and physics at the University at Albany, he is developing a new theory of inquiry that allows us to program machines to ask questions as well as design their own experiments.

"We are using this in our robotics work with the aim of developing robotic scientists for planetary exploration," said Knuth, a former NASA scientist who joined UAlbany in 2005, and has a doctorate in physics from the University of Minnesota.  He studies such things as information processing in the brain, astrobiology, intelligent instruments, and robotics.

"We currently have seven robotic missions in operation on or around Mars," said Knuth. "Soon, robots will be coming to Earth. They will be everywhere."

Knuth's demonstration is free and open to the public. It is just one of a myriad of activities and events during UAlbany Day, which will showcase how the University puts the world within reach. UAlbany Day activities will highlight the richness of the University's academics, student success, and campus life to the community at large, prospective students and parents, and UAlbany alumni. The day's activities include tours, a Farmers' Market, a basketball scrimmage, a tailgate party, and the Homecoming football game against St. Francis.

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