Dr. Joshua Mangelson is coming to us from his one-year post-doc in the Field of Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Mangelson is an alumnus of BYU and the University of Michigan. When he was here as an undergraduate student, he was the digital lab director and a teaching assistant for ECEN 220 (Fundamentals of Digital Systems) and ECEN 320 (Digital System Design). He also did research with Dr. Nelson in the Configurable Computing Lab and was a TA in the Math Lab.
Dr. Mangelson has always been interested in technology and understanding how computers work. In middle school, he taught himself to program and he remembers a birthday when he was young that he received a LEGO Mindstorms robot that he built and programmed to do little things like follow a black line on a white background. When he reached high school, he joined a robotics team. His favorite part of robotics is that it enables you to use computers and technology to make something happen in the physical world that first only existed in your imagination.
There are many tasks that are too difficult, dangerous, or monotonous for humans to do effectively. Robotic systems are often a perfect fit for these types of tasks. Enabling robotic systems to perform these tasks can drastically improve quality-of-life and safety for individuals and society as a whole. Dr. Mangelson is currently working on the development of an underwater autonomous vehicle to support his research. Once that is completed, they will build multiple vehicles to enable research focused on using multiple underwater vehicles for inspection and search of underwater environments such as bridges and dams. He will also be building an autonomous wheelchair and investigating how one can leverage computer engineering techniques to increase the efficiency and reliability of many of the algorithms used in robotic navigation
Dr. Mangelson also has a personal connection to his research. “I have a daughter who uses a wheelchair. She has only used one for a year or two, but it has really opened our eyes to the fact that our world is not accessible to a significant portion of the population. A simple stair or two can be a huge barrier, let alone outdoor activities such as camping or hiking. While there are motorized wheelchairs that can handle rough terrain, they require a degree of control that many people with disabilities just don't have. However, by leveraging robotic navigation and perception techniques, we should be able to develop autonomous wheelchairs that can enable people to more easily go where they want to go and access areas of the world not currently possible.”
Dr. Mangelson believes that his is the greatest job in the world. “It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time to teach and research at BYU. I love the process of learning, I love working with students and helping them understand things they are interested in, and I love the research I'll be working on. Plus, I just love BYU itself for what it stands for. I'm really excited to be here.”