Robotics, other key initiatives funded by Honda grants

Posted: September 12, 2023

American Honda Motor Co. (Honda) recently awarded The Ohio State University more than $500,000 in grants to support a range of initiatives aimed at advancing robotics and automation, enhancing diversity and inclusion, promoting sustainable aviation, improving teen driver safety, and more.

Josh Hassenzahl talking to local high school students touring the lab
Hassenzahl gives an overview of robotics to local high school students touring the lab

One of the awards is for the Industrial Robotics Initiative, which focuses on the development of robots and automation with the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering (ISE) at Ohio State. By partnering with Honda, which uses Fuji Automatic Numerical Control (FANUC) Robotics extensively, the ISE department plans to offer workforce training to current employees, engage with local high schools to foster interest in engineering, and expand the potential workforce. 

“I believe that these career routes and opportunities need to be demonstrated to high school students to help fight against the stigma surrounding manufacturing jobs,” said Joshua Hassenzahl, ISE laboratory supervisor. “We strive for hands-on exposure to the equipment, so maximizing the time a student has is a huge part of providing a meaningful experience that the student can take with them and ensures they retain the necessary knowledge that they will need in the field.” 

This award from Honda will allow Ohio State to double enrollment in the robotics class, exposing approximately 100 students to robotics each year. This will also enable Ohio State to add new robotics courses to the curriculum. 

This latest award builds on a 2019 $50,000 grant from Honda to ISE to procure a robot for this lab, says Honda’s Shubho Bhattacharya, co-director of the Honda-Ohio State Partnership and an adjunct ISE associate professor. 

Shubho Bhattacharya and students in the ISE robotics lab
Honda's Shubho Bhattacharya giving a lecture in the ISE 5525 (Industrial Robotics) course

Another grant Ohio State received from Honda is for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which supports underrepresented minority students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This program is a collaboration between Ohio State University and Central State University. The goal is to create a sense of belonging for incoming, first-year students from underrepresented backgrounds in STEM fields. By engaging students in a six-day hybrid (virtual and face-to-face) residential experience, the initiative addresses the need to broaden participation in STEM and increase college retention rates. 

“A large body of literature has suggested that underrepresented racial minorities (URMs) in STEM face academic and non-academic challenges that can affect their retention and persistence in STEM,” said Carrilyn Long, Ohio State's LSAMP program manager. “Early arrival or first-year experiences are one way to buffer against these challenges. In addition, early arrival or first-year experiences that create and promote a sense of belonging in higher education and STEM broaden participation in STEM and increase the number of URMs who attain an undergraduate degree in science and engineering. “

Through activities, engagement opportunities, and integration with faculty, staff, peers, and the larger Columbus communities, the LSAMP program supports academic and social integration while promoting a passion for STEM disciplines. This collaborative effort will provide flexibility in engagement and session offerings across both campuses.

Other grants Ohio State received from Honda are dedicated to multiple categories. A new Sustainable Aviation Initiative aims to promote sustainable and low-carbon aviation. The initiative will create new pathways for student learning and research, and engage the private sector, government and nonprofits on critical sustainability and decarbonization. In addition to corporate partners like Honda, participants will include public entities such as the Air Force’s Agility Prime, NASA and FlyOhio. 

Honda grant dollars will also support the DRVN app, which was developed to address teen driver safety. The app provides directed lessons for parents to teach their teens driving skills and tracks the required driving hours for licensure. The research project will assess the effectiveness of the app in improving driving attitudes and behaviors among teens. Novice drivers and their parents will participate in surveys and monitoring activities to gather data for analysis.

Ohio State University's regional campus in Marion, Ohio plans to establish a center for STEM education and engineering careers. The award from Honda will enable the Marion campus to offer enrichment programs and immersive experiences for middle and high school students, providing them with insights into engineering disciplines. Honda’s collaboration and funding will support activities such as workshops, virtual tours, robotics competitions, and summer engineering camps. 

Lastly, the College of Social Work at Ohio State University is continuing its Safe Routes to Age in Place through Villages project, which received support from Honda for the second consecutive year. The initiative aims to improve mobility for older adults by bridging the digital divide and expanding access to transportation services. The project utilizes community-based participatory research methods to identify mobility challenges and develop solutions in collaboration with older residents, practitioners, and scholars.

The Ohio State University and Honda have collaborated together for decades, founding an official partnership in 2000 based around three strategic pillars: research, talent, and community. Over this period, Honda has provided Ohio State with more than $28 million in research funding and donated more than $68 million to researchers, students and programs that advance shared philanthropic initiatives.

from Office of Innovation and Economic Development

Category: Giving