Social Robotics for the Good of Society
The Social Motivation Approach for Rehabilitation Through Educational Robotics (SMARTER) project aims to advance the theory and practice of social cognition research in educational robotics, leading to a better understanding of cognitive rehabilitation.
Anshu Arora, Associate Professor of Marketing, School of Business and Public Administration, University of the District of Columbia
Call to ActionLaunched in 2021, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Research Initiation Award supports research that seeks to obtain new scientific knowledge on social, cognitive, and behavioral relationships in educational robotics using a social motivation approach for managing learning/cognitive disabilities. The Social Motivation Approach for Rehabilitation Through Educational Robotics (SMARTER) project in Washington, D.C., focuses on two of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—goal 3, good health and well-being, and goal 4, quality education—for District of Columbia citizens through social and educational robotics.
The overarching goal of SMARTER research is to acquire new scientific expertise on social, cognitive, and behavioral relationships in educational robotics. A social motivation methodology is applied for managing learning/cognitive disabilities, social interaction difficulties, and developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in the middle and high District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) in Washington, D.C.
Touchless robotic technology has emerged as a critical support system for educational, therapeutic, and emotional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SMARTER research project will advance the theory and practice of social cognition research in educational robotics using social motivation theory and simulation theory of cognition, and the results of the SMARTER research will lead to a better understanding of cognitive rehabilitation among DCPS students and UDC undergraduates.
Specific research objectives of the SMARTER research project:
- Examine social-behavioral relationships and social cognition in ASD individuals through social-educational robotics.
- Investigate robotic anthropomorphism and intentionality targeted at ASD students.
- Develop curriculum-related interactive scenarios designed for improving cognitive rehabilitation through educational robotics interventions targeting ASD students in DCPS and UDC.
SMARTER research will use a mixed-methods approach, such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, structured content analysis, and structural equation modeling. The project will focus on synthesizing social cognition and educational robotics intervention results targeted at DCPS and undergraduate UDC students in Washington, D.C.
The most significant impact of the SMARTER research project is that it will strengthen the research capacity at UDC for undergraduate students and faculty in the interdisciplinary education, social cognition, and robotics fields, and providing research training and opportunities for UDC undergraduate students.