Student Spotlight: From Underwater Robotics to Rehabilitative Technology

Posted: October 14, 2019

Jennifer Humanchuk, a fourth-year electrical engineering major is pursuing her passion for robotics through her participation in the Underwater Robotics Team hosted at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Humanchuk’s interest in robotics began when she joined her high school’s robotics club. She attended a week-long engineering camp at the University of Dayton and made a visit to their robotics lab. She realized that she could pursue her passion for robotics as an electrical engineering major at The Ohio State University.

“I was like ‘I could play with robots for the rest of my life and make it a career!’,” Humanchuk said. “From there I decided to look at electrical engineering and I just kept trying to join as many robotics clubs as I could in high school which eventually led me to Ohio State and the Underwater Robotics Team.”

Humanchuk joined the Underwater Robotics Team during her sophomore year; now, she is the team’s president.

The competition centers around each team building an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) which is meant to demonstrate its autonomy through the completion of a variety of tasks, like passing through gates, touching marked buoys, dropping markers, shooting torpedoes, retrieving objects and surfacing at certain locations. The AUVs must also adhere to certain weight and size constraints.

“I’ve learned a lot about the electrical engineering side of things. I’ve designed circuit boards, programmed firmware, I’ve done a little bit of everything!” Humanchuk said. “I’ve also had the opportunity to learn other sides of engineering like the mechanical and software side. I’ve learned about engineering on a system level, not just the individual level and how these components need to work together.”

Humanchuk is looking to pursue a master’s degree in robotics, with a focus on rehabilitation robotics. She would like to work in a lab focused on assistive technology to help people with physical impairments.

“I have a history of a variety of injuries; I have badly injured my back, and I’ve had a partial tearing of my ACL in one of my knees, so I’ve been in and out of physical therapy for a lot of my life- for the past 8 years or so. I really like talking to physical therapists and learning about how the body works,” Humanchuk said. “I was lucky enough to be able to get rehabilitated and work on this with my own physical capability, but there are a lot of people with physical impairments that as much as they do it’s not going to help. For example, if you have a leg that’s amputated, there’s really not that much you can do on your own. What interests me is working on the rehabilitative robotics that can assist people with those types of injuries.”

Written by Muhammed Alrefai, CAR Marketing and Communications Intern