Justin Barrett, PhD Candidate
Hometown: Chelmsford, Massachusetts
Degree: PhD, Robotics Engineering
Why did you choose WPI?
I got my undergraduate degree here and had a lot of fun doing it. I chose to stay at WPI for graduate school because of the ever-expanding robotics program and the outstanding faculty.
How has WPI's philosophy of Theory and Practice, as well as working with teams, been beneficial to you during your time at WPI?
The tenets of theory and practice are both emphasized particularly well at WPI, and nowhere is that more evident than in the robotics program. Understanding the theoretical basis behind specific engineering concepts is important, but until you've actually implemented them as part of a physical system, you'll never fully understand them. I didn't really understand how a microprocessor works until I got my hands on one and started programming it in RBE3001.
Now I know that I can go out into industry and produce physical results because of the experience I have. Working in teams is also an important part of the WPI culture. It has not only helped by giving me the opportunity to learn from other people who know things that I don't, but it has also prepared me to work as part of a project team in the engineering industry.
What do you consider WPI's greatest strengths?
I think it’s the academic community here. Students and professors alike are always willing to lend a hand to someone who is struggling with something. It's much easier to learn at a university where collaboration and teamwork are valued so highly. Those are the things that make me proud to be a WPI student.
How have the professors in the Robotics Engineering department impacted your studies and your life?
During my senior undergraduate year while I was working with my MQP team on our senior project, our advisor, Professor Taskin Padir, stayed on campus until 2 a.m. to help us edit our 180-page MQP report the night before it was due. Talk about being invested in our success...
Describe any research projects you are involved with at WPI.
I am currently working with Professors Michael Gennert and Bill Michalson, along with Julian Center (of Autonomous Exploration Inc.) on a combined vision and inertial navigation system. The project is essentially seeking to combine a stereo vision system with an inertial measurement unit to produce an integrated navigation system that can operate in areas where GPS and other navigation aids may be unavailable.
What do you hope to do when you graduate?
I hope to pursue a career in the navigation field, specifically something that involves working on or developing navigation systems for autonomous vehicles.
Groups or extracurricular activities in which you participate at WPI
The main group that I participate in on campus is Rho Beta Epsilon, which is the Robotics Engineering Honors Fraternity. As a group we seek to recognize the achievements of Robotics Engineering students who have excelled in both the theoretical and practical aspects of robotics, and who have demonstrated passion and enthusiasm in their work. We also host events for the robotics engineering community and contribute to the quality of the robotics engineering program at WPI.