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Meet our E.P.I.C. Researcher, Dr Melinda Laundon

The Australian Cobotics Centre has some incredibly E.P.I.C. researchers. Each month we will be profiling a different researcher. Dr Melinda Laundon is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with our Human Robot Workforce program and is based at QUT.

We sat down with Melinda recently to find out more about why she does what she does.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your research with the Centre?

I’m part of the Human-Robot Workforce research program. We have a broad scope to research the changing skills, capabilities, and composition of the Australian manufacturing workforce, including the influence of cobots on jobs, workers and organisations. My research is investigating attraction and retention of manufacturing workers, from the perspective of sector stakeholders, managers and the workers themselves. I hope it will help to understand how advanced technologies can change the way we attract people to careers in manufacturing, and help to address some of the crucial skills shortage issues in Australian manufacturing.

  • Why did you decide to be a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre?

I jumped at the chance to work with great researchers from many different disciplines, as well as the opportunity to engage with industry partners on issues that are immediately important and relevant. I could also see strong parallels between the Cobotics Centre’s commitment to sustainable growth and quality jobs in manufacturing, and QUT’s Centre for Decent Work & Industry, where I co-lead a research stream on sustainable transitions between education and work.

  • What project are you most proud of throughout your career and why?

I’m proud of my work with the Australian Research Council and universities to help academics and PhD students to plan for and achieve an impact on society from their research.  I’m also proud of my roles as a mentor and assessor for Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship schemes at QUT and other universities. HEA Fellowship emphasises the value of reflection, professional development to improve student learning, and sharing good practice with colleagues – all of which apply to research as well as university teaching.

  • What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?

I came to academia after a policy career in the Australian Public Service, including stints with the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Australian Research Council. My PhD in management examined employees’ fairness perceptions at work, especially in relation to reward and recognition. I started my academic career with the intention of not only doing good scholarly research but also having a practical impact on organisations and public policy. I hope that my research helps to inform policy and practice by contributing deeper understandings of workers’ perceptions and needs.

  • Aside from your research, what topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?

This is a tough one! I might have to break it up into a few smaller lectures on different topics including Scottish and Australian crime fiction, Australian slow fashion labels, and music played on Triple J in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.


QUT’s Vacation Research Experience Scheme (VRES)

The Centre has been lucky enough to have two undergraduate students from QUT, Sabrin Daniel and Melanie Lay, working on projects with us over the last couple of months as part of QUT’s Vacation Research Experience Scheme (VRES).

VRES allows students the opportunity to participate in a research project for approximately 6-10 weeks. This opportunity is particularly valuable if they’re interested in pursuing a research degree! 

We sat down with Sabrin and asked her a little more about her experience:


Why did you decide to participate in QUT’s VRES?

Throughout my degree, I’ve had a particular interest in Social and Organisational Psychology. As a result, I thought this was the best way to gain insight into organisational issues such as teamwork and productivity, as well as gaining experience in conducting a literature review. Moreover, it is clear that post COVID-19, advancements in technology is changing the way businesses meet client and consumer expectations, therefore I was curious to understand how this would impact me as a HR professional. Specifically, how HR will need to adapt its policies and processes to support companies in this transition.

What did you learn that you think will be most useful in your future work or studies? 

The process in identifying patterns within the literature and being able to make appropriate conclusions about their impact to the topic at hand was a great skill that I learnt. I believe that this will help me in my future studies. As well, this is a skill that helps to identify what exists in the literature and what the gaps are to be able to implement appropriate policies and HR practices. Specifically in my research, a common consensus is that human-robot collaboration (HRC) requires commitment, capability and fulfilment and issues such as communication, trust and interdependency can hinder HRC. As a result, reading the literature allowed me to understand how HR professionals can address these issues which will be useful for me in the future.

What did you enjoy most about your project? 

I thoroughly enjoyed attending the Australian Cobotics Centre (ACC) launch, as I was able to hear industry partners speak about how cobots present opportunities for their industries, along with the anticipated challenges. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be able to do a site visit at Urban Arts Precinct (UAP) with my mentors, Melinda Laundon and Greg Hearn. Both of these events helped in providing context for me to understand my research. Finally, I was fortunate enough to have mentors that provided me with resources to understand an efficient and systematic approach to conducting a literature. I believe their feedback and guidance throughout the process made this VRES project thoroughly enjoyable.

What would be the next steps in your project if it was to continue? 

The next step in the process is to identify and focus research questions based on the findings of my research.

Meet the VRES Students

Sabrin Daniel worked with the Human-Robot Workforce research program.

Her research focuses on Work crews and cobots: the future of work. Specifically, a literature review on, trends in cobotic adoption, how team dynamics will be impacted and the possible advantages and challenges to cobotic adoption trends in.

She is currently an undergraduate at QUT studying a dual degree; a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Business (Human Resource Management Major).

Melanie Lay worked with the Designing Socio-Technical Robotic Systems Program.

Her research aims to create digital twins to support human-robot collaboration. The outcome of this will include modelled 3D assets which can be used to digitally simulate a real-world manufacturing environment.

She is currently an undergraduate student at QUT, studying a double degree of Bachelor of Design (Architecture)/Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics).


Changes to QUT’s Chief Investigators

We’d like to officially welcome our newly appointed Chief Investigator, Müge Belek Fialho Teixeira to our Centre. Muge will be replacing Anjali who was the driving force behind the creation of our Manufacturing Floor of the Future video.

Müge is a creative maker, designer and transdisciplinary researcher, specializing in advanced manufacturing, digital fabrication, and parametric design.

She has worked with prominent architectural firms such as Zaha Hadid Architects, taught at several institutions including QUT (Queensland University of Technology)The University of Queensland, Istanbul Technical University, and Architectural Association (AA) Visiting Schools. She also has multiple publications in peer reviewed books and journals interviews, presented in many international conferences such as CAADRIA (Computer Aided Architectural Design Research in Asia).

Currently, Müge is a Design Lead at ARM Hub (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) and a Senior Lecturer in the QUT Faculty of Engineering (FoE), School of Architecture and Built Environment (ABE) Interior Architecture. She was a Chief Investigator and a post-doctoral researcher at QUT in Design Robotics Project funded by IMCRC (Innovative Manufacturing Corporate Research Centre), that partnered with RMIT and UAP. She holds a BSc. in Architecture, a MSc. on “Collaborative Design Studio Environments” from Istanbul Technical University (ITU), and a MArch from Architectural Association School of Architecture Design Research Laboratory (AADRL). She holds a PhD focused on Trans-Architectural Design Paradigm, during which she studied for two years with Marcos Novak in University of California Santa Barbara, Translab. She is also the cofounder of [f]FLAT, an environment to research and develop design and media art works.

Her main research interests are in the areas of Transdisciplinary Design Research, Phenomenology of Perception, Multimodal Spaces and Pancomputational Design Strategies. She is interested in creating an understanding of our world out of our natural attitude through sensory experiences of space that are created using computational and digital strategies. She constantly looks for ways to expand the body of knowledge through transdisciplinary studies/thinking in design through making. Her understanding on the “world of making” is based on constant experimentation and pushing the boundaries of current discourses through rigorous applied research.

New PhD Researcher, Akash Hettiarachchi

Welcome to Akash Hettiarachchi! Akash is a PhD researcher in the Centre, working with our Human Robot Workforce program based at QUT (Queensland University of Technology).

As new technologies are introduced, workers must re-train, upskill and adapt as production processes and specific jobs are re-designed. Opportunities exist to diversify the workforce, retain ageing or injured workers, and create a new employee-value proposition.

With the aim of expanding the available pool of talent and addressing attraction issues, this Project will look at the implementation of collaborative robotic technology across all Partner Organisations with manufacturing operations. It will explore the potential for new technologies to provide jobs that might be attractive to younger applicants and previously under-represented groups of workers in manufacturing, such as women or people with a disability.

Further, the study will consider how such technology might address retention and knowledge management issues by enabling injured or ageing workers to remain in meaningful and secure employment.

Welcome Akash!

Read more about the program.

New PhD Researcher, James Dwyer

Welcome to our newest PhD Researcher, James Dwyer based at QUT (Queensland University of Technology)! James is joining our Human Robot Interaction program and is supervised by Jared Donovan. His PhD project is entitled: “Human Robotic Interaction prototyping toolkit”.

Interaction Design relies on prototyping methods to help envisage future design concepts and elicit feedback from potential users. A key challenge the design of human-robot interaction (HRI) with collaborative robots is the current lack of prototyping tools, techniques, and materials. Without good prototyping tools, it is difficult to move beyond existing solutions and develop new ways of interacting with robots that make them more accessible and easier for people to use.

This Project will develop a robot collaboration prototyping toolkit that combines physical and simulated robotic systems to explore, develop and test new processes and work routines. The project will enable designers, engineers, and end-users to work together to improve the future of human-robotic interaction.

Read more about the program.

New PhD Researcher, Munia Ahamed

Our Quality Assurance and Compliance research program has a new PhD Researcher, Munia Ahamed.

Munia is supervised by Lee Clemon and is based at UTS Tech Lab.

Her PhD project is entitled: “Human Factors in Cobot era to Support Quality Assurance and Reliability: An exploratory Multiple Case Study in Australian Manufacturing Industry.”

This Project will capture the inspection points, reliability, and interpreted information needed for monitoring collaborative robotic activity. This activity is captured both through the collaborative robots in the interaction, automation processes up and downstream as well as through additional sensors.

This Project will focus on the integration and documentation of this data for regulatory and quality assurance activities.

Find out more about Munia here: Munia Ahamed » Australian Cobotics Centre | ARC funded ITTC for Collaborative Robotics in Advanced Manufacturing

New PhD Researcher – Fikre Gebremeskel

Welcome to our newest PhD Researcher, Fikre Gebremeskel based at UTS Tech Lab!

Fikre is joining our Designing Socio-Technical Robotic Systems program and is supervised by Matthias Guertler.

His PhD project is entitled: “Design Factors: Integrated Design of Collaborative Robots, Products, and Manufacturing Environment.”

The ultimate goal of this PhD project is to support companies in implementing collaborative robots (cobots). A key focus is on exploring socio-technical interdependencies between cobot, products to be manipulated, and the manufacturing workplaces. This will help to identify how products and workplaces affect the choice and design of a cobot, and how those need to be adjusted to best accommodate the new cobot.

We look forward to sharing the progress of Fikre’s research!

Read more about the program.

Meer our E.P.I.C. Researchers: Associate Professor Mats Isaksson

Recently we interviewed one of our E.P.I.C. researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, Associate Professor Mats Isaksson, co-Lead of the ‘‘Biomimic Cobots‘ program in the Centre. Mats shared some of his career highlights so far, and a little about his many different research roles!

Tell us a bit about yourself and your research with the Centre? Include the long term impact of what you are doing

I grew up in the north of Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle. It is an interesting place where the sun never sets in the summers (and hardly rises in the winters). I did my undergraduate and MsC at Lund University, specialising in Automatic Control. After finishing my MsC in 1997, I began working for the motion control department at ABB Robotics in Sweden.

After 10 years at ABB Robotics, Sweden, I relocated to Newcastle, Australia. After working for my own IT company for a year, I was contacted by Boeing who together with ABB offered me a very generous opportunity for a PhD candidature. The PhD project targeted investigating the feasibility of a novel parallel kinematic robots for aerospace applications and was carried out at the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research (IISR) at Deakin University in Geelong.

After finishing my PhD, I worked for three years at IISR before starting at Swinburne in 2016. I am currently an A/Prof at the Department of Mechanical and Product Design Engineering where I am the unit convenor for Control Engineering. I am also the program leader of the Intelligent Robotics Program at the Manufacturing Futures Institute and the manager of the Intelligent Robotics Lab, which I founded in 2021. Having an industrial background, I have always focused on industry collaborations and during my last three years at Swinburne I have been awarded above $12M in funding for such projects.


Why did you decide to be a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre?

Currently, my main research focus is medical robotics and I am working with Cambridge Medical Robotics and Mulgrave Hospital on projects targeting the ergonomic benefits of robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery. I am also the principal supervisor for three PhD candidates whose projects target the use of collaborative robots in medical applications. One project is a collaboration with Baker Heart Institute targeting the use of collaborative robots for teleoperation of heart ultrasound examinations. I am also researching and developing systems for autonomous ultrasound examinations, robotic photobiomodulation therapy, and skin cancer detection. As so much of what I am doing involve collaborative robots and industry collaborations, becoming a member of the centre was a perfect fit for me. I am very excited about learning from colleagues in this field and supporting the robotization of Australian industry.


What project are you most proud of throughout your career and why?

One of my longest and most interesting projects during my time at ABB Robotics was to develop robot force control functionality. The entire project, from low-level control loops to designing a user interface, were done by myself and one other colleague. This was quite satisfying as in a large company you typically only provide one piece of the puzzle. As far as I know, ABB was the first company including force control functionality in their industrial robots, which enables lead-teach programming and advanced assembly and machining applications. I am also very proud of leading the IMCRC Tradiebot project where a small team integrated 3D scanning, 3D printing, advanced robotics, and the development of a novel polypropylene composite filament, to build a fully working prototype for automatic repair of car headlights.


What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?

Although some larger Australian companies are in the frontline of robotics integration, the general impression I get when visiting industries is that the level of automation is low compared to northern Europe. This is particularly true for SMEs. Although the increased safety of cobots makes them faster to commission, developing a cobot cell still requires significant know-how. My hope is that the Cobotics Centre can contribute in developing methods that reduce the requirement for expert knowledge and traditional programming skills when developing a cobot cell.


Aside from your research, what topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?

I can talk about many things such as being bitten by sharks and attacked by Cassowaries but not sure if anyone would care to listen ?


Mats is also the Research Lead for the Intelligent Robotics program at Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute.

Meet our E.P.I.C. Researcher, Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell

Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell

The Australian Cobotics Centre has some incredibly E.P.I.C. researchers. Each month we will be profiling a different researcher. Associate Professor Glenda Caldwell, co-Lead of the ‘Designing Socio-Technical Robotics Systems‘ program and the Centre’s Open Innovation Network, is kicking things off.

We sat down with Glenda recently to find out more about why she does what she does.

  • Tell us a bit about yourself and your research with the Centre?

My disciplinary background is in Architecture with a particular interest in computational design and digital fabrication. I have always been fascinated – a little intimidated and inspired – by technology (software and hardware) and its impact on how we make things, how it impacts our design processes, and our ability to visualise and communicate our ideas. The research we are doing in Program 3: Designing Socio-Technical Robotic Systems looks to explore and further understand what and how human centered design methods and processes can facilitate or drive the integration, implementation and adoption of Collaborative Robots into manufacturing tasks of industry partners. We explore the human factors such as ergonomics and motivation, the design factors such as use of space, design of systems and robotic tools, and the virtual factors such as use of VR to simulate and validate cobotic tasks in safe virtual environments. We intend to use design approaches to take the people on the workshop floor on the journey with us of exploring how and why a cobot can improve the manufacturing tasks they are working on. The outcomes we seek will deliver safer working environments that are more productive and efficient while more importantly will also be more enjoyable and stimulating for humans working collaboratively with robots.

  • Why did you decide to be a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre?

I see being a part of the Australian Cobotics Centre as a natural next step and evolution from the completed IMCRC Design Robotics Project where I was a Chief Investigator. There were many research opportunities that arose from that project where we could see the tremendous value for further Cobotics research in manufacturing. The ACC provides opportunities to work with researchers from a range of disciplines and backgrounds from UTS, Swinburne and QUT while collaborating with diverse industry partners who create different types of products using different manufacturing processes and materials. This mixture and breadth of expertise from both the academics and the industry sides is super exciting and essential to collaborate on and address the different challenges and many opportunities for cobotic solutions. This is an ideal test bed for progressing impactful design and cobotic research which is emerging in recognition not only in manufacturing but in other sectors such as construction and for helping to develop the next research superstars who are embarking on their own research and career journeys.

  • What project are you most proud of throughout your career and why?

During my PhD I was able to secure internal seed funding for a project called the InstaBooth, a purpose designed and built pop-up interactive booth for community engagement. Its purpose was to include and capture the voices of people from public places and assist in their communication and envisioning of the city they wanted to live in.  This tiny, but quick to grow large, project was highly collaborative with colleagues from across disciplines, with other PhD students, undergraduate students, other universities including California Polytechnic University and University of Sydney, and numerous community partners. The project was creative, collaborative, and so much fun while also highly impactful not only for the researchers and students involved but also for the community members who participated and engaged with it. I am most proud of this project.

  • What do you hope the long-term impact of your work will be?

My ambition and long -term impact of my work will not only be for the successful design of the integration of cobots into our industry partners’ manufacturing lines but also more broadly to the manufacturing and construction industry demonstrating that human centered design is essential in creating workspaces, places, and processes that respond to the needs of humans while being safe, efficient, and sustainable. I am driven by openness, collaboration and creativity for innovative outcomes and hope that these key ingredients will help to create environments that support gender equity in research and climate responsible processes and solutions.

  • Aside from your research, what topic could you give an hour-long presentation on with little to no preparation?

I could talk about teaching in Architecture or Research Methods. I could talk broadly about Computational Architecture and Design Robotics. My other research topics – Media Architecture (can put together quickly) or Human Building Interaction (would need time to put this together though) is something I could also talk about. I could also talk about being an academic and a mum, and the juggle of work life balance : )

Glenda also works with the QUT Design Lab. Read more about one of Glenda’s recent projects which was a collaboration between QUT,  Griffith University, The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University, and Monash University: Transforming Aged Care with Virtual Reality.