The star of the show was a robotic dog. He was cute. He did tricks. He also gave us a glimpse at the future.
Ocala’s Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) presented a program on Jan. 19 at its downtown facility featuring Dr. Gwen Bryan. Bryan is a research scientist for IHMC who focuses on developing robotic exoskeletons that are being designed to provide lower-limb mobility to people who are limited in their ability to walk due to spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
Bryan spoke at IHMC’s monthly lecture and discussed the possibilities that robotics provide through both augmentative and rehabilitative exoskeleton technology. Already the institute’s research is being implement through experimental programs with the Department of Education and people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Bryan said the robotic exoskeletons are proving to well-suited to those needing assistance with mobility.
In addition to her lecture, Bryan visited area schools to share the magic of IHMC robotics with Marion County schoolchildren. Introducing the possibilities of science that await young people is one of the 29-year-old Bryan’s passions. She talked to every class she visited about those myriad possibilities.
Bryan and the IHMC team visited South Ocala and Dr. N.H. Jones elementary schools’ Belleview Middle School; and North Marion, Vanguard, West Port and Forest high schools.
The reception from students was enthusiastic.
“Oh my gosh! We took a robot, ‘Mini-Cheetah,’ with us. The reaction was that everybody was fascinated by the robot,” IHMC spokeswoman Laurie Zink said. “The little kids were literally jumping up and down and screaming. The big kids had very specific questions, and lots of them. A lot of people talked to Gwyn about what their options were in terms of science careers. They were very, very engaged.”