A collaborative projects course was created and implemented for the development of theatrical scenarios employing robots as actors. The course was created out of the Department of Mechanical Engineering but was offered as an interdisciplinary course to Cooper Union students of the Engineering, Art and Architecture Schools. The projects took the form of original theatrical scenarios with robotic characters. Working in teams of three or four students from varied disciplines, students developed imaginative plays, commercial products, stories and film and animated works. Projects were geared for production via a telerobotic website — an on-line theater space for robots as actors that is manipulated by remote visitors to the web site. Projects occupied a real physical space at the Cooper Union where the repertory company of robot actors "live". This course consciously merged art and engineering to push new frontiers in the cyberlife-forms emerging on the web. The paradox of self-identity in remote presence is a growing issue. We address such issues by creation of, and participation in, a webcast robotic stage production and other robotic scenarios.

The course was called EID111: Design, Illusion and Realty: Robotics and Theater.


Course Proposal
Propose the development of a new course to improve undergraduate Science, Math, Engineering and Technical (SMET) education for both majors and non-majors, extending student diversity. The course is an adaptation and implementation of two technologies, the world-wide-web and robotics, plus a teaching method, in a single course. The teaching method is the use of theatrical performance of robots on the web as class project. Theatrical performance becomes a container for the technologies as well as a medium for dissemination and teaching with world-wide audiences and participants. The proposed course is targeted at all levels of college students and all majors.


Course Introduction
An introduction should be written that describes the goals of the course and discusses why the two or more interdisciplinary subjects are being brought together for the course. It should also outline what will be expected of the students for the semester.


Structure and Goals
Course structure should consist of four phases: exposure, exploration, development and presentation. The four phases can easily be applied to any other advanced interdisciplinary subject matter such as art and biology, energy and environment, history and film.

The exposure phase introduces the student via films and readings, to mind-stretching concepts and cases involving creativity, technology, mythology and coerced links between concepts which are normally disjoint, such as robotics and theater, art and science, freedom and compulsion.

In the exploration phase, students launch into research of individual interest, with an eye to a course project. This phase drives students towards coherent concepts for their projects.

Weekly class discussions change from conceptual experimentation to finding solutions for implementation problems. These include limitations of media to express concepts, seeking alternative technologies to implement difficult mechanisms, or rephrasing a dramatic episode proposed for final presentation.

The presentation phase involves projecting of ideas and personality to an audience, organizing stage time, and wrapping the concepts into a choreographed performance with dramatic closure.

Implementation consists of folding your own content into the four phases. Establish a source list of readings and films, schedule assignments in reading, and proceed with the timetable appropriate to your calendar. Each phase should take roughly 25% of the course period. In addition, coordinate with the administrators of your institutional curricula so that you have the wholehearted support of administrators and colleagues for this endeavor. Use a search engine to find collaborative educational programs, and then refine the search with your content discipline interests.
Assignments consist of written reports on online and offline readings in the culture, socio-economic theory and general history of the course content and of the end results of former collaborative projects between the varied disciplines. Students also keep a journal of project progress. The semester project is the main assignment.

Course Syllabus
The Syllabus delineates the source materials and assignments for each week of the course and includes a timeline for the final project.

Course Resources
Course Resources is both an online and offline bibliography for the course, and information as to where the resources can be found.

Faculty adopt the methodology successfully applied in the NSF Gateway program as exhibited in the Chart for Course Assessment. Note that in objectives of student development, ABET criteria and outcomes are covered. The measured outcomes will be used by the instructors to steer subsequent courses, and by the Chairperson and Dean to guide curriculum enhancements. A student questionnaire should be administered at the end of the course. It will provide important assessment for all three staff groups.


Undergraduate Student Projects gives a cross-section of some of the projects that evolved from our course. It is recommended to allow students to find their way through assigned materials and independent research towards their choice of a project.

Undergraduate Student Research Papers
These are examples of research papers by students in support of their projects.

Graduate Student Thesis Abstract
James Cole, a graduate student in the Cooper Union Department of Mechanical Engineering, completed his thesis on implementation of a web-enabled communication platform for a single ActivMedia PeopleBot to be used in Cooper Union’s Robotic Theatre.

Faculty Statements
Faculty should be encouraged to create statements summing up their experience in creating and teaching the course.