Public Release: 

UT Arlington School of Social Work receives grant to develop human assistive robot learning network

University of Texas at Arlington

A University of Texas at Arlington researcher has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to help develop a network that will lead to improvements for people with disabilities who depend on wheelchair mounted robotic arms.

John Bricout, professor and associate dean for research and community outreach in the School of Social Work, is the UT Arlington site principal investigator on a three-year, $1 million grant with the University of Central Florida. Bricout's portion of the collaborative grant is $119,663.

Researchers plan to create a learning network of wheelchair-mounted assistive robotic arms and human users to help people with spinal cord injuries through the project.

"This will allow users to reach for objects that they otherwise would not be able to reach for," Bricout said. "We want to maximize the learning of both humans and robots to the benefit of the human's daily activities, satisfaction and quality of life."

Scott Ryan, dean of the UT Arlington School of Social Work, called the project an exciting new venture into the frontier of designing systems that enhance the lives of society's least advantaged citizens.

"Human-robot learning networks for extending the capabilities of people with disabilities provide an exciting new chapter in the evolving relationship between social work and technologies across the board," Ryan said. "Social work in the 21st century is well positioned to provide leadership on ethical, social justice and diversity issues related to technology in relationship to the betterment of our society."

Bricout said trust is a key variable in human-robot interaction. People must be able to trust how the information that they share with the robots and with other users will be employed. Researchers will examine the perception of control, satisfaction and preferences with assistive technology and ethical issues.

"From a social work standpoint, we're very interested in self-determination as part of the larger concept of social justice that people should be able to determine important outcomes in their own lives," Bricout said. "In this case, the outcomes are around people with disabilities being able to engage in more activities of daily living."


About the School of Social Work

UT Arlington's School of Social Work is nationally and internationally recognized for its expertise in social work and social welfare, as well as equipping students with the education and skills to transform society through service since 1967. With more than 1,800 students enrolled in its academic programs, the School of Social Work offers three main academic programs: the Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Social Work and Ph.D. in Social Work.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 40,000 students in Texas and around the world and is the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

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