GRA wins elevator pitch competition at robotics conference

Published by Emile Creel on

by Emile Creel

A graduate research assistant with the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab recently placed third at the 2021 Human Robot Interaction (HRI) international conference Elevator Pitch competition.

Sayantani Dutta, a doctoral student in computer science and engineering, competed virtually with others joining in from around the world during the conference held March 9-11. The students had 30 seconds to pitch their research topics to a panel of judges, and Dutta says she decided to enter as a challenge to herself to be able to concisely define her research interest.

“We could not use any visual aids or slides when we talked about our research topic. It was as if we were on the elevator with someone important, and we had to concisely pitch them our research to get them interested in the topic. I talked about my topic on improving AI literacy among middle school students, and how we can get them interested in AI concepts by teaching them those topics with games,” Dutta said.

Although the entire HRI conference, co-chaired by SSRC Interim Director Cindy Bethel, was held virtually, Dutta says she enjoyed opportunities to meet others over video chats for coffee breaks and lunch chat rooms.

“Plus, the presentations at HRI 2021 were amazing, got to see many interesting new robots and work that people are doing. The best feature of the talks was the chat function, where you could ask the presenter questions. It was a wonderful experience,” Dutta said.

In the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Dutta is researching Artificial Intelligence (AI) literacy. As she discussed in the pitch competition, she is concentrating on middle school students and using games “to help students better grasp the notions, logic, and approach behind the regularly used AI products and services, rather than just learning to use them.”

In the STaRS Lab, she assists Bethel, lab director and a professor in the department of computer science and engineering, with gathering research and literature reviews that are available on social and therapeutic robots currently in use to further the work of the Lab.

Learn more about the STaRS Lab at

Visit to learn more about the conference.