A Full-day Broadening Participation
in Computing Workshop

Keynote Speakers

Morning Keynote


Radhika Nagpal


Ants, Bees, and Robot Collectives


Social insects - like ants and bees - work together in massive groups to do amazing things from finding food over vast areas to defending their brood against predators. They also build! often assembling amazing structures of mind-boggling scale and complexity. For example, centimeter-scale African termites collectively construct self-ventilating mounds up to 10 meters high; Australian weaver ants make bridges and chains out of their own bodies; Fire ants self-assemble into floating rafts to survive floods. As a group, these insects are incredible engineers and architects of their environment.

What would it take to create robots and robot collectives that can similarly engineer and architect their environment? In this talk I will discuss several different projects from our group that use inspiration from insects to create novel types of robots that can solve different problems in our environment. One example is our Termes Robots, that are inspired by mound-building termites that construct large and complex nests, but seem to do so without any leaders in charge. I'll also talk about the Kilobot robot, where we've made our first "colony" of a thousand programmable robots, and the Robobee project (joint with Wood Group), where we want to create a colony of tiny robots inspired by honeybees. Lastly, I'll also show some recent work where I traveled to Namibia to work with biologists to better understand the incredible group intelligence that social insects display.

Speaker Biography:

Radhika Nagpal is the Kavli Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University and a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. At Harvard, she leads the Self-organizing Systems Research Group (SSR) and her research combines computer science, robotics, and biology. Her main area of interest is how cooperation can emerge or be programmed from large groups of simple agents. Recent work includes the Termes robots for collective construction and the Kilobot thousand-robot swarm (both published in Science Magazine 2014, and chosen as one of their top ten breakthrough articles this year). In addition to creating new robots with her research group, she enjoys painting, dancing, and celebrating her family's indian and carribean cultures.

Afternoon Keynote


A. J. Brush


Inventing Technology for Homes and Families


Technology in homes fascinates me due to the wide range of devices and services, the needs of different residents, and the constant change as people enter and leave home with devices. At home people use technology by themselves and with other people for a variety of tasks, from coordinating their lives to entertainment. For the past 10 years I have studied and built technology for homes and families. I will present a series of research prototypes we have built and put in homes to enable digital family calendaring, family connectedness, and saving energy. Inspired by the challenges of deploying prototypes into homes, my current project, Lab of Things, is a publicly available platform that makes it easier for researchers to build and deploy prototypes using connected devices in homes. Academics are using Lab of Things for both teaching and research projects, and we are excited to see how the platform can help accelerate innovation in home technology.

Speaker Biography

A.J. Bernheim Brush is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research. A.J.’s research area is Human-Computer Interaction with a focus on Ubiquitous Computing and Computer Supported Collaboration (CSCW). A.J. is most well known for her research on technologies for families and her expertise conducting field studies of technology. Her current focus is home automation as co-leader of the Lab of Things project. She is a Senior Member of the ACM and was honored to receive a Borg Early Career Award in 2010. Her research has received 2 best paper awards and several best paper nominations. She has 11 patents and more than 18 inventions patent pending. A.J. was co-general chair of UbiComp 2014, and serves on the UbiComp Steering Committee and is co-chair of CRA-W. A.J. also serves regularly on Program Committees for many conferences including UbiComp, Pervasive, CHI, and CSCW.