Penn Engineering’s PERCH takes flight at Pennovation Works

Text by Evan Lerner, photos by Scott Spitzer

PERCH, the Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub, provides a newly equipped home base for several integrated, multidisciplinary projects with students and faculty from three labs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

PERCH
PERCH features a larger motion-capture camera system for tracking and planning robots’ movements. Photo by Rebecca Elias Abboud

PERCH, the Penn Engineering Research and Collaboration Hub, a new research facility, is beginning to take shape.

Comprising the third floor of the forthcoming Pennovation Center, the PERCH facility provides a newly equipped home base for several integrated, multidisciplinary projects with students and faculty from three labs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The facility’s location within Pennovation Works is key to its overarching mission: to speed along fundamental technological development and reduce barriers toward their adoption outside the lab.

“Our faculty and students are the agents of innovation, developing the fundamental knowledge and creating novel technologies,” says Vijay Kumar, the Nemirovsky Family Dean of Penn Engineering. “PERCH will bring together researchers and entrepreneurs to improve the lab-to-market pipeline and enhance the ecosystem for technology innovation in Philadelphia.”

The first researchers moving into PERCH are from Engineering’s General Robotics Automation Sensing and Perception, or GRASP, Lab. Currently existing as the intersection between three Engineering departments, PERCH will give GRASP researchers a centralized location for collaborative efforts on new robotic platforms, as well as updated fabrication and motion-tracking technology for building and testing them.

The three groups include the Kod*Lab, under Daniel Koditschek, the Alfred Fitler Moore Professor of Electrical and Systems Engineering; the ModLab, under Mark Yim, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and director of the Integrated Product Design program; and the Multi-Robot Systems Laboratory, under Kumar. Koditschek will be the facility’s inaugural director.

The facility will foster a growing array of collaborations, bringing expertise intersecting with, and ranging far beyond, the field of robotics. Faculty from the Penn Research in Embedded Computing and Integrated Systems Engineering, or PRECISE, Center will also be participating in PERCH activities, computer vision, control systems for medical devices, the “Internet of Things,” and other emerging domains of science and engineering.

Beyond fostering collaborations between groups within Engineering, PERCH aims to help translate their research into real-world products and connect them with members of the business community who are setting up shop in the surrounding Pennovation Works. Several GRASP spin-off companies are already located there.

“PERCH offers our students rich opportunities for interaction with researchers across disciplines,” says Kathleen Stebe, deputy dean for research and innovation at Penn Engineering and the Richer & Elizabeth Goodwin Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “It also provides them with a chance to develop in an entrepreneurial setting and to collaborate with business and industry members working in the Pennovation Center or at Pennovation Works.”

Originally published on .