16-899D: Assistive Robotic Technology in Nursing and Health Care

General Description

Judy Matthews (Pitt) and Aaron Steinfeld (CMU)
Time and date: Spring Semester 2005, Tues 4:30-7:20 pm
Location: CMU NSH 1305 and Pitt TBD, with field trips


The increasing number of people with chronic disorders, and the nation-wide pressure to reduce health-case costs, mandate the development of innovative technologies that enable elderly and handicapped people to maintain a high quality of life.

This course brings together an interdisciplinary group of students from nursing and other health disciplines, computer science, and robotics to design and evaluate robot systems that help community-residing, frail older adults and persons with disabilities sustain their independence. In collaboration with faculty, students will engage in hands-on learning of skills relevant to the design, development, and evaluation of service robots that assist elderly/disabled people. Through seminar discussion and laboratory activities, students will have the opportunity to learn from faculty and each other how to design technology that can serve people.

Activities include seminar discussion, guest speakers, community-based experiences, and project-based learning.


The course seeks to draw students from the following academic units/programs:

  • School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Intelligent Systems Program, University of Pittsburgh
  • Center for Research in Chronic Disorders, University of Pittsburgh
  • and other related fields


At the completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Utilize nursing and other health science, computer science, and robotics literature to substantiate the need for innovative technology applications that enable frail elderly persons and individuals with disabilities to live independently in the community for as long as possible.
  2. Participate in interdisciplinary teamwork to develop a logical, plausible proposal for the design and evaluation of a robot system that could serve a targeted functional need of frail and/or disabled individuals in their place of residence.
  3. Participate in the construction and testing of a robot system to determine the adequacy with which it achieves its intended purpose.
  4. Critique the physical, functional, and esthetic qualities of the robot system produced.
  5. Analyze the experience of interdisciplinary collaboration in developing robotic applications that augment nursing practice.


The course is project-based. Teams of students will jointly design, build, and evaluate a prototype of a robot that provides assistance to elderly or disabled people. Ideally, each team will be composed of 3-4 students from different academic units. Both faculty members will work closely with the team during the entire course. The class will meet weekly to discuss progress and jointly solve problems. The course is organized in three phases:

  • Phase I: System design (Week 1-4)
  • Phase II: Implementation (Week 5-9)
  • Phase III: Evaluation (Week 10-12)

The class will meet weekly for lectures and to discuss progress and jointly solve problems.


Student performance in this course will be evaluated on a graded basis, from A through F. The final grade will reflect performance on a limited number of project-based assignments and class participation. All students are expected to adhere to the standards of academic honesty. Any work submitted by a student must represent his/her own efforts. Any student engaging in cheating, plagiarism, or any other acts of academic dishonesty will be subject to disciplinary action.


No single set of requirements exists, as we expect students from a large range of academic backgrounds to participate. Students in technical fields should have experience in one of the following: software development, hardware design, or user interaction. Students in the nursing sector should have experience with development and/or evaluation.


This course is for 12 units (Carnegie Mellon University).


  • Judy Matthews, Center for Research in Chronic Disorders, School of Nursing, Univ. of Pittsburgh
  • Aaron Steinfeld, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University


Enrollment in this course is limited to twelve students.

Send mail to Aaron Steinfeld if you are a CMU student, and to Judy Matthews if you are a Pitt student. Our goal is to compose teams of students from all different academic units (nursing, computer science, robotics) to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and problem solving.

Click here for the home page of the Spring'04 Course

Click here for the home page of the Spring'03 Course

Click here for the home page of the Spring'02 Course