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Collaborative Research: Pre-Skilling Workers, Understanding Labor Force Implications and Designing Future Factory Human-Robot Workflows Using a Physical Simulation Platform 

Funded by NSF (Grant FW-HTF #1931227)

Project period: 2018 - 2022 

Collaborator: Purdue University 

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The goal of the project is to improve the process of education and training of workers collaborating with our partners at Purdue University to develop a physical-reality simulation platform (PRSP) and related technologies that cohesively connect human agents with robots and machines (HRMs). These technologies can help the workforce gain the necessary skills to achieve greater productivity in the new labor market. With the PRSP, research and businesses can eliminate uncertainty both in designing their production processes and in training activities, potentially removing a major deterrent to investment and deployment of new technology. Users can tinker with the platform and create more choice sets to make decisions, accelerating the pace of growth, total output, and technology evolution.


A central enabler of this vision is by pre-skilling the workforce. To do this, we have planned to empower 80-120 underserved young people with virtual and hands-on experiences that help prepare them for a future world where AI, robots, AR, smart environments, drones and autonomous objects of all kinds will change the basic skills required of all workers. This work engages in partnership with the National Writing Project at its university-based sites across the country. NWP has an extensive background in networked improvement communities (Bryk 2011), supporting the design and development of curricular materials spanning high school to college. Our pre-skill learning experiences aim to address the longstanding decline in early employment among low-income individuals ages 16-24, as well as prepare youth for work now and advancement at least a decade into the future, unlike current training programs that focus solely on providing the lowest-level entry-level skills for jobs that may be automated or obsolete in the next few years. We focus on creating experiences relevant to the manufacturing industry where, due to current worker shortages, our target demographic (i.e., Gen Z) has an immediate opportunity to embark on a career today while simultaneously preparing them for the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier (FW-HTF). 

Representative Publications

Peppler, K., Huang, J., Richey, C. M., Ginda, M., Börner, K., Quinlan, H., Hart, A. J. (2020). Key principles for workforce upskilling via online learning: A learning analytics study of a professional course in additive manufacturing. arXiv preprint.

Ipsita, A., Dong, Y., Erickson, L., Huang, J., Bushinski, A. K., Vilanueva, M. A., Saradhi, S., Peppler, K., Redick, S. T., Ramani, K. (2022). Towards modeling of virtual reality welding simulators to promote accessible and scalable training. The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2021.

Villanueva, A., Liu, Z., Zhu, Z., Du, X., Huang, J., Peppler, K., Ramani, K. (2021). RobotAR: An augmented reality compatible teleconsulting robotics toolkit for augmented makerspaces experiences. The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2021.

Glenn, T., Raja, P. F., Payne, K. T., Perdomo, O. M., Pereira, N., Huang, J., Peppler, K., Ramani, K. (under review). MicrokARts: Designing augmented reality enabled karts for co-located play with children. The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2022.

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