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KAIST International Symposium Highlights the Value of Science through Global Collaboration
The presidents of three premier science and technology universities shared their belief that universities should move forward to embrace social changes while maintaining the importance of academics for future generations during the KAIST International Symposium on February 16. The symposium, one of the events to celebrate KAIST’s 50th anniversary, highlighted the future role of universities over the next 50 years by hosting a panel featuring ETH Zurich President Joël Mesot, Caltech President Thomas Rosenbaum, and KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin. Members of the foreign diplomatic corps representing seven countries also explored the new model of global collaboration in the second session. President Rosenbaum of Caltech said that even though society is changing, the role of universities will not be different since the value of knowledge will always be important. He said that universities must embrace change. He said that universities should move forward fearlessly if they believe it would impact wider society positively. He added that universities should also be courageous enough to take a new path based on longer-term perspectives and lessons learned from successes. One of the roles of universities is to establish various hypotheses and possible prospects, raise doubts, and go forward with a strong will for the future generations to come. He cited LIGO (the Laser Inerferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory), as a good example of a successful university-research collaboration. LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation in the US and operated by Caltech and MIT. Approximately 1300 scientists from around the world, including the Max Planck Society in Germany and the Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK, participate in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. In 2019, the international team of scientists detected the collision of two black holes with masses about 142 times the mass of the sun in the most massive collision ever detected. MIT Physicist Rainer Weiss shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Professor Barry Barish and Professor Kip Thorn from the Department of Physics at Caltech in recognition of their contribution to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves. President Mesot of ETH Zurich stressed that universities should foster young talents well versed with creative thinking and entrepreneurship in this new era. He also said that COVID-19 has reaffirmed the importance of science and global collaborations beyond borders to address global challenges such as pandemics. President Mesot said COVID-19 has taught us the value of science and R&D, adding that the roll-out of a vaccine in only one year would have been impossible without the decades-long R&D foundation that universities and industries have established. He also gave the example of the MRI as a reason universities should provide strong basic science research foundation. In 1944 in the US, Dr. Isidor Isaac Rabi won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance. The MRI research inspired many ETH professors for further studies and led them to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952 for their MRI basic theory and in 1991 the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with the development of high-resolution spectroscopy. “The MRI first started 80 years ago and still applies in today’s medicine. We should focus on research which will keep such value,” President Mesot said. Meanwhile President Shin also said that the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been deemed the "winner takes all" era. At this highly competitive time, R&D activities are more meaningful if they produce the world’s best, first, and only outcomes. “We aim to achieve excellence in research with long-term innovative research support systems. We will conduct R&D activities that will lead the megatrends of the Fourth Industrial Revolution: hyper-connectivity, super-intelligence, and meta-convergence. In addition, we will double down to conduct forward-looking flagship research that will enhance the happiness and prosperity of all humanity in the areas of global warming, infectious diseases, bio-medicine, energy and environment, smart technology, and post-AI.” Responding to one of the student’s question about what mindsets are expected of students enrolled in government-funded national universities, President Mesot made three suggestions. First, they should remember that they are privileged, so they should give back their talents to society. They should also be patient with what they are doing even when they don’t achieve the desired results. Lastly, they should remain open to new ideas and be flexible when encountering disruptions. Seven diplomats stationing in Korea including Rob Rapson, US Charge d’Affairs ad Interim Rob Rapson, UAE Ambassador Abdulla Saif Al Nuaimi, Kenyan Ambassador Mwende Mwinzi, Danish Ambassador Einar Jensen, Pakistani Ambassador Mumtaz Zahar Baloch, Egyptian Ambassador Haem Fahmy, and UK Ambassador Simon Smith joined the second session themed KAIST for the Global Community. They all agreed that KAIST is one of the shining examples of successful international collaboration stemming from the international aid loan from USAID. Five decades later, KAIST now is working to help the Kenyan government to establish Kenya KAIST with a 95-million US funding from the Korea Exim Bank. While stressing the importance of global collaboration for inclusive growth in the global community, the seven diplomats gave their insights on the newly transforming global environment intertwined with COVID-19 and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the face of global changes caused by emerging technologies and carbon neutrality, the ambassadors expressed a strong desire to make collaborations between KAIST and their countries to propel new innovations in industry and education in their countries.
Wearable Robot 'WalkON Suit' Off to Cybathlon 2020
Standing upright and walking alone are very simple but noble motions that separate humans from many other creatures. Wearable and prosthetic technologies have emerged to augment human function in locomotion and manipulation. However, advances in wearable robot technology have been especially momentous to Byoung-Wook Kim, a triplegic for 22 years following a devastating car accident. Kim rejoiced after standing upright and walking again by putting on the ‘WalkON Suit,’ the wearable robot developed by Professor Kyoungchul Kong’s team. Even more, Kim won third prize in the powered exoskeleton race at Cybathlon 2016, an international cyborg Olympics hosted by ETH Zurich. Now Kim and Professor Kong’s team are all geared up for the Cybathlon Championship 2020. Professor Kong and his startup, Angel Robotics, held a kickoff ceremony for Cybathlon 2020 at KAIST on June 24. The 2020 championship will take place in Switzerland. Only pilots with complete paralysis of the legs resulting from spinal cord injuries are eligible to participate in the Cybathlon, which takes place every four years. Pilots compete against each other while completing everyday tasks using technical assistance systems in six different disciplines: a brain-computer interface race, a functional electrical stimulation bike race, a powered arm prosthesis race, a powered leg prosthesis race, a powered exoskeleton race, and a powered wheelchair race. The 2016 championship drew 66 pilots from 56 teams representing 25 countries. In the powered exoskeleton race, pilots complete everyday activities such as getting up from a sofa and overcoming obstacles such as stairs, ramps, or slopes and up to four pilots compete simultaneously on tracks to solve six tasks; and the pilot that solves the most tasks in the least amount of time wins the race. (Kim, a triplegic for 22 years demonstrates walking and climbing the stairs (below photo) wearing the WalkOn Suit during the media day on June 21 at KAIST.) Kim, who demonstrated walking and climbing the stairs wearing the WalkON Suit during the media day for the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony on June 21 at KAIST, said, “I have been confined to a wheelchair for more than 20 years. I am used to it so I feel like the wheelchair is one of my body parts. Actually, I don’t feel any big difficulties in doing everyday tasks in wheelchair. But whenever I face the fact that I will never be able to stand up with my own two legs again, I am so devastated.” He continued, “I still remember the day when I stood up with my own two legs by myself after 22 years. It was beyond description.” The market for wearable robots, especially for exoskeleton robots, is continuing to grow as the aging population has been a major challenge in almost every advanced country. The global market for these robots expects to see annual growth of 41.2% to 8.3 billion US dollars by 2025. Healthcare wearable robots for the elderly and rehabilitation take up the half of the market share followed by wearable robots for industrial and defense purposes. Professor Kong from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and his colleagues have developed two wearable robot systems in 2014: The "WalkON Suit" for complete paraplegics and “Angel Suit” for those with partial impairment in walking ability such as the elderly and rehabilitation patients. Professor Kong said after 15 years of basic research, the team is now able to develop its own distinct technologies. He said their robots are powered by non-resistant precision drives with algorithms recognizing the user’s moving intention. Incorporated with prosthetic devices technology from the Severance Rehabilitation Hospital, their control technology has led to the production of a customizable robot suit optimized for each user’s physical condition. The WalkON Suit, which boasts a maximum force of 250 Nm and maximum rotation speed of 45 RPM, gives the user high-energy efficiency modeled after the physiology of the human leg. It allows users to walk on flat ground and down stairs, climb up and down inclines, and sit and lie down. Currently the battery lasts five to six hours for locomotion and the approximate 25 kg of robot weight still remains a technical challenge to upgrade. Professor Kong’s team has grafted AR glass technology into the WalkOn Suit that one of his pilots put on for the torch relay of the PyongChang Paralympics in 2018. His team is now upgrading the WalkON Suit 4.0 for next year’s competition. Severance Rehabilitation Hospital will help the seven pilots with their training. Professor Kong said his goal is to make robots that can make people with disabilities much more independent. He stressed, “Wearable robots should be designed for each single user. We provide a very good graphical user interface so that we can design, check, and also verify our optimized design for users’ best performance.” (Seven pilots and Professor Kong (fifth from left in second row) pose with guests who joined the Cybathlon 2020 kickoff ceremony. President Shin (fifth from right) made a congratulatory remarks during the ceremony.)
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