Utah Professor Vladimir Kulyukin said his current research project is in robotic assisted navigation in dynamic and complex environments.

“Simply speaking, we are trying to develop a robot for use as a mobile grocery cart used for the blind in supermarkets,” he said. “The robot would meet the blind person at the door and, by the push of a button, would lead the person to different areas of the store.”

Kulyukin said the robot would ideally be mounted on mobile carts, but the level of funding for the technology here at USU is not sufficient for marketing the project.

Though the funds to market this innovation aren’t available, he said members of the community have been helpful in testing the technology.

“Lee Badger, the owner of Lee’s Marketplace grocery stores, has been very good to us,” he said. “He has granted us access to his store and that was very helpful. We’ve actually had our robot in his store, navigating the aisles.”

Kulyukin is currently teaching computer science 1700 and 2200, as well as robotics courses for graduate students.

“My favorite students are those that can do their homework independently, and show up on exam days,” he said. “I don’t mind if my students never come to class. That is evident because I make attendance optional.”

Chaitanya Gharpure, a computer science major in his first year of USU’s Ph.D. program, did his master’s degree under Kulyukin. He said that while some might say Kulyukin is rigorous and strict when it comes to the homework he assigns, he didn’t agree.

“I don’t think Dr. Kulyukin is strict,” Gharpure said. “I would say he is only as strict as a professor has to be. More than anything, he is fair.”

Myra Cook, an academic advisor in the department of computer science, said she has great respect and admiration for Dr. Kulyukin. She said his studies are more than purely educational, they are also entertaining.

“Rolling robots that look like R2-D2 prototypes, a guide dog that is jealous of the robots, various configurations of masking tape on the floor, graduate students with an apparatus resembling something from the Jetsons strapped to their backs are all part and parcel of having my office next to Dr. Kulyukin’s,” she said. “Not only is it educational, it’s full of surprises and lots of fun. Much of the fun is the fact Dr. Kulyukin will take the time to explain his research to me – a ‘non-techie.'”

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