Session to Inspire CMU Portugal Prospective Students at IST


IST Session for Prospective Students 2013

On September 27, 2013, the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade de Lisboa (IST/UL), the Instituto de Sistemas e Robótica (ISR), and the CMU Portugal Program held an event at IST/UL to present a new initiative with Google Glass, a keynote talk on Autonomous Robots by Manuela Veloso, faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), as well as demos of projects and technologies related to the Program’s activities. One of the aims of this event was to provide an opportunity for prospective students to get to know the Program better, and to stimulate them to participate in the Call for Applications for Doctoral Program Scholarships, which will open on October 15, 2013.


The president of IST/UL, Arlindo Oliveira, opened the session and welcomed the audience, wearing the new Google Glass. This smart glasses unit was awarded to Ricardo Cabral, a dual degree doctoral student of IST/UL and CMU, to be tested and to support the development of new applications. The president of IST/UL took a picture of the audience using the Google Glass, and then shared it on the Internet.

The session continued with a presentation by the national director of the CMU Portugal Program. João Claro described the strategic lines, goals and achievements of the partnership, focusing on the multiple opportunities offered by the Program to dual degree students, namely the fact that the students benefit from a truly international education experience, and conclude their studies with a diploma from a Portuguese university and a diploma from CMU. Another important idea left by João Claro was the fact that “students are exposed to an extremely rich research environment, in which they have the opportunity to carry out world-class research, as well as to do internships in top companies.”

Referring to the results of the Program, João Claro stressed that more than forty-nine researchers from Portuguese universities have already benefited from its Faculty Exchange Program. According to João Claro this is a very important instrument, that can be “fundamental to empower faculty members in Portugal,” and contribute this way to the Program’s mission of establishing Portugal at the forefront of science and innovation in key focused areas of Information and Communication Technologies.

The national director also highlighted some aspects of the impact of the Program’s research projects, as well as its emphasis on collaboration, specifically the strong collaboration between Portuguese universities and research institutions, companies and CMU. “To enable critical mass in Portugal, institutions need to cooperate with each other,” João Claro stated after showing some figures about the scale of the Program’s activities: more than 200 alumni, 300 dual degree students, and more than 300 researchers have been involved.

Autonomous Robots by Manuela Veloso 

Manuela Veloso, a well-known Portuguese faculty member at CMU, gave the audience an inspiring keynote talk about her research on “Autonomous Robots in Human Environments” at the Robotics Institute. She captivated the audience with a statement in the first person about the past 15 years of her research work, and her team’s challenges and dreams.


This Portuguese researcher started her career back in the mid-90s with robots that played soccer. “For three or four years, I had no results to show, but I didn’t give up,” she stressed. Her determination took her to success, and today she is internationally recognized for her extraordinary work with robots. Recently, Manuela Veloso started to work on service robots that interact with humans. During her talk, Manuela Veloso spoke about CoBots (collaborative robots), which are able to perform different tasks, although not in a totally autonomous way. “The big secret is to develop robots that are able to ask for help,” revealed the researcher. At the Gates Building, at CMU, it is usual to see CoBots in the corridors, performing different tasks, and also asking humans for help when, for instance, they need to use an elevator.

Session on IST for Prospective Students 


Regarding the future of her research, Manuela Veloso intends to provide CoBots with the ability to actively learn semantic labels for locations in an environment, perform natural language-based interaction with humans, autonomously monitor execution, and learn by example from human demonstration and human correction.

Google Glass@IST Project 

The session continued with the presentation of "Google Glass@IST: A Collaborative Project to Develop Applications," given by João Paulo Costeira, from ISR and IST/UL, and coordinator of the dual degree doctoral program in Electrical and Computer Engineering at IST/UL, and by Ricardo Cabral, a dual degree doctoral student who was at the time at CMU. João Paulo Costeira started his intervention by presenting the dual degree doctoral programs available at IST/UL in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, and by outlining the different research fields, from Electrical and Computer Engineering to Language Technologies, from Robotics to Biomedicine, and from Engineering and Public Policy to Technological Change and Entrepreneurship. João Paulo Costeira also emphasized the opportunities that the Program can provide to the students.

From the other side of the Atlantic, through videoconference, Ricardo Cabral spoke about the achievement of having received one of the very few Google Glass units available currently, and the potential applications that can be created for this device. In part, this opportunity was made possible by Ricardo Cabral’s internship at Google in the previous year. João Paulo Costeira was very proud of this achievement, and feels that all the community should be able to contribute to develop new applications for Google Glass. “The goal is to create a common software repository over time (…) so that any person can easily use it to test ideas,” explained João Paulo Costeira.

The incubator “Startup Lisboa”, which provides facilities, consulting and support to entrepreneurial initiatives, was presented by Ana Santiago, Public Relations and Communications “The synergies and the networking provided by Startup Lisboa are a distinctive factor,” she highlighted.

Another dual degree doctoral student invited to speak on this session was José Jerónimo Rodrigues, who is in his final year of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. Program, at IST/UL and CMU. Jerónimo Rodrigues, also a researcher at ISR, spoke about his overwhelming experience as a doctoral student, his research work with companies and internship opportunities.


Session for Prospective Students at IST 2013  

João Claro closed the session congratulating all the members of the CMU Portugal Program that were present on the event, for their outstanding work and dedication, and challenging the prospective students: “As you can see, our students live a life full of science fiction, humor, mystery, action and adventure… and in the little remaining free time they still get to receive the best education in the world in ICT, push the frontier of knowledge, and work with top global companies, all while contributing to our mission of placing Portugal in a leadership position in this area.”

The event ended with an open session of demonstrations and presentations by students and companies.

October 2013