Events highlight campus energy around physical AI

Students conduct AI-related research at the Purdue UAS Research and Test Facility. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Institute for Physical Artificial Intelligence (IPAI) at Purdue University is sponsoring three events that signal growing campuswide energy around the development of artificial intelligence and its application in the physical world. On March 26, IPAI will host the first in a series of panels on physical AI, which will be followed by the Robotics and Intelligence Systems Expo (RISE) on March 30 and the student-organized Catapult hackathon March 30-31.

“Purdue is tremendously well positioned to lead this emerging integration of AI with the physical world,” said Karen Plaut, executive vice president for research at Purdue. “Purdue’s strengths in computer science, engineering and life sciences are fueling the technology of physical AI and applying that technology in areas like manufacturing, health care, transportation, agriculture, robotics and, of course, workforce development. Events like the panel, expo and hackathon are invaluable opportunities to consider the future of physical artificial intelligence and how we can best shape it to benefit society.”

Shaping AI in the Physical World: Emerging Challenges and Opportunities

IPAI will host industry and research leaders for the March 26 panel discussion, titled “Shaping AI in the Physical World: Emerging Challenges and Opportunities,” which will include representatives from Amazon, Argonne National Laboratory, Caterpillar, Purdue and Southwest Airlines. The panel will focus on social, policy and economic questions raised by the increasing use of cyber-physical systems in fields like manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, agriculture and forestry, and health care.

The panel will be held from noon-1 p.m. at the Bill and Shirley Rice Design Studio in the Materials and Electrical Engineering Building on Purdue’s campus and will also be broadcast online. Lunch will be offered to in-person attendees at 11:30 a.m. Registration is required.

Robotics and Intelligence Systems Expo

The March 30 Robotics and Intelligent Systems Expo will offer robotics demonstrations, presentations and opportunities to network with emerging engineering talent and current experts in AI and robotics.

“We decided to hold RISE because we wanted to give a platform for students, faculty and industry professionals to exchange ideas and showcase the latest research advancements in robotics and AI, and to solidify Purdue as a hub of robotics in the Midwest,” said Haddy Alchaer, president of the Autonomous Robotics Club of Purdue, which is co-hosting the event with the Institute for Control, Optimization and Networks.

Alchaer said companies including Unitree Robotics and Uniform Sierra, a Purdue startup, will join participants from universities nationwide alongside student organizations and research labs in presentations spanning the many applications of robotics and AI, and will showcase eye-catching demos such as robotic dogs, humanoid robots and autonomous drones.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Purdue Memorial Union’s Stewart Center. Before the event, RISE will offer guest presentations on Monday, March 25; Wednesday, March 27; and Friday, March 29. The full schedule is at the event website. Registration is requested but not required.

Catapult hackathon

The student-led ML@Purdue organization and Purdue Founders are co-hosting the Catapult hackathon, which offers several challenges around the theme of business and AI, including physical AI, said Sameeha Afrulbasha, president of ML@Purdue and an undergraduate data science student.

“Students will be judged not only on their demo or prototype, but also on their business plan and how they market their idea,” Afrulbasha said. “We’re trying to bring together two huge communities — computer science and entrepreneurship — on campus to build AI solutions that are business-viable.” 

The two-day hackathon will be held in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center. Check-in is at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 30. Activities include workshops, talks and coding sessions and will conclude with a closing ceremony at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 31. The hackathon is open to university students nationwide. Participants must complete an online application to attend

About Purdue University

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Writer/Media contact: Mary Martialay,

Source: Jennifer Wonder,

Haddy Alchaer,

Sameeha Afrulbasha,