Project Details


This Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier Research (FW-HTF-R) grant will develop a new robot teleoperation method based on deep learning and blockchain certification to augment construction workers’ capability and promote diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the workplace. By some estimates, a large fraction of construction jobs will be automated and teleoperated with robots in the future. This transition can enable safe and remote work away from hazardous construction sites with the potential to reduce obstacles for women to join the industry while also creating an inclusive work environment. At the same time, it is also important to improve the gender diversity of the construction industry, where women and other minority workers represent less than 10% of the workforce. In light of this, the project will investigate gender differences in collaborating and teleoperating robots, and capitalize on the understandings to develop robot learning and teleoperation methods that are accessible and equitable across genders. A novel blockchain-based mechanism will also be created to assess workers’ competence and performance to improve fairness and equity in future construction jobs. This research will also measure the impacts of developed technologies on future construction work, characterizing the intended potential and unintended consequences on workers and organizations. If successful, the developed technology ecosystem will help improve worker productivity, safety, and health, and equip the U.S. workers to lead the way in the construction industry reform in a gender-inclusive manner. This project can break down many barriers facing women and other underrepresented workers, opening new and equal work opportunities, helping them participate in the workforce, and navigating them in the transitions to the era of robots and artificial intelligence. This will benefit the construction industry and other domains with less diversity such as manufacturing and agriculture and result in U.S. economic growth.This project brings together an interdisciplinary team with deep and cross-cutting expertise in engineering, computer and information science, human factors, industrial and organizational psychology, education and adult training, and legal affairs to achieve multiple convergent objectives. First, this project will 1) develop an inclusive robot teleoperation interface adaptive to construction workers considering gender-related diversity and experience to augment workers’ performance; 2) design a federated learning mechanism for aggregating limited data from underrepresented workers to mitigate bias in AI and robot intelligence development; and 3) develop a blockchain-based platform in certifying workers’ skill competence and performance for trusted and equitable recruitment, hiring, and retaining. Second, with deep industry engagement, this research will develop a theoretical framework and multidimensional impact models to 1) quantitatively measure to what extent inclusive teleoperation can support gender diversity and augment workers’ capability via job and task analysis; 2) understand the impacts on construction work structure, job design, and worker self-efficacy and career development with broader participation of underrepresented workers; and 3) assess the opportunities and barriers at the organizational level for adaptations from integrated technological, economic, social, and legal aspects. Third, this project will develop a new platform integrating adult learning theories, innovative engineering curricula, and the developed artificial intelligence and robot technologies to break the boundaries for inclusive student learning, workforce training, and industry networking.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date9/1/228/31/25


  • National Science Foundation: $559,757.00


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