April 28, 2016

The first test for DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program is complete. Test #1, Warehouse, took place at Joint Base Cape Cod / Otis Air National Guard Base on April 8-22, 2016. The UMass Lowell NERVE Center is providing test and evaluation services for the FLA program, designing and facilitating test events that push the autonomous capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Draper with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania, and Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI) with AeroVironment.

Check out our time lapse video of the test course being built:

April 6, 2016

The Valkyrie has landed! Today, NASA delivered their R5 Valkyrie robot to the NERVE Center. The set up was quite an event, covered by many members of the press. Check out some of the stories here:

We set up a GoPro during the installation to make a cool time lapse video:


March 14, 2016

Bounce Imaging, one of the NERVE Center's frequent users, was featured in this past weekend's episode of "Innovation Nation" on CBS. The segment details the companies product the Explorer and is demonstrate performing a few different tasks at the NERVE Center. The clip can be viewed on YouTube below:

February 12, 2016

Photos courtesy of DARPA

DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) takes flight! The UMass Lowell NERVE Center is providing test and evaluation services to DARPA's FLA program, which will culminate in a series of test events over the next three years. The program is focused on developing lightweight UAV navigation autonomy that uses minimal information to operate, with only a distance and bearing commanded to the UAV from the operator. The first milestone test is the Warehouse: navigating aisles of varying widths, racks of boxes, solid walls, and cluttered and dense environments.

The first test event is slated to occur in April 2016; preceding it a data collection event was held. The NERVE Center organized the event and set up a notional test course using examples of the types of environments teams will be expected to navigate at Joint Base Cape Cod / Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. An overview video of the event can be watched below. Read the full overview article on DARPA's website here:

November 17, 2015

NASA's R5 Valkyrie humanoid robot (photo from

A collaborative team composed of Northeastern University (Taskin Padir and Robert Platt) and UMass Lowell (Holly Yanco) will receive one of two humanoid robot awards from NASA, an R5 “Valkyrie” robot, building off of the teams’ work with humanoid robots at the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Robotics Challenge. “We look forward to hosting the 6 foot tall ‘Valkyrie,’ at UMass Lowell’s NERVE Center, as we work with our collaborators at Northeastern,” says Professor Yanco. The 2nd award will go to MIT. Researchers at the NERVE Center will be developing a set of tasks and test methods, in addition to the extreme environments already created, for Valkyrie to experience in anticipation of the 2017 Space Robotics Challenge (SRC).

For the full announcement, please look here.

October 19, 2015

An article in Gear Patrol placed the UMASS Lowell NERVE Center as one of the robotics labs that are changing the world.

"Opened in 2013 on the campus of University of Massachusetts Lowell, this robotics testing facility is poised to bring plenty of tech-focused companies in to test their robots on a variety of surfaces. Prior to its opening, robotics firms in the region — which number nearly 200 — had to travel to Maryland or Texas to find similar proving grounds."

Check out the full list on Gear Patrol: Robotics Labs That Are Changing the World

July 1, 2015

The UMass Lowell NERVE Center was mentioned in a CNBC article the details the growing robotics hub in Massachusetts.

Joint Base Cape Cod in Buzzards Bay hosts one of six national Federal Aviation Administration test sites for unmanned aerial systems. One of three national test sites for ground-based robots is located at the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation Center on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Read the entire article on CNBC: States battle in the race to win the US robotics war

June 20, 2015

Left: The UMass Lowell NERVE Center's exhibition booth. Right: a Qinetiq Dragon Runner 20 inspecting a pipe star.

The UMass Lowell NERVE Center recently participated in the Devens Robotica 2015 event, organized by the Devens Inter-Operability Playground (IOP) and MassTLC with an exhibition booth highlighting some of our test method and research projects. Manager Adam Norton presented the NERVE Center along with other Massachusetts robotics test facilities on a "RoboInnovation" panel discussion. He also participated on a panel to outbrief the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), discussing the role HRI (human-robot interaction) played among competitiors for both the DRC Trials and Finals. The event has been covered by both the Lowell Sun and MassTLC's blog:


During the June 2015 MassTLC Robotics Cluster meeting, director Holly Yanco also discussed UMass Lowell's evaluation of HRI at the DRC Finals:

April 9, 2015

Last night the NERVE Center hosted an open house event as part of National Robotics Week. Attendees were treated to robot demos and exhibits from iRobot, NewBotic, Worcester Polytechnic Institute's WALRUS project, Northeastern University, the Devens Interoperability Playground, the New England Chapter of AUVSI, and the UMass Lowell Robotics Lab.
A gallery of photos from the night can be viewed here:

Left: Test engineer Xavier Guay demos the VGTV in the NERVE Center's rain area. Middle: The iRobot 110 FirstLook fends off against a Lego Mindstorms NXT robot. Right: The WALRUS team from WPI demonstrates and explains their robot to open house attendees.

January 15, 2015

The NERVE Center recently attended a water robotics testing exercise hosted by our collaborators the NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network (NCFRN) at McGill University's Bellairs Research Institute in Barbados. The event was attended by researchers from the Mobile Robotics Lab out of McGill University and many members of the NCFRN, including York University, Laval University, and University of Toronto. During the event, systems were tested on land and sea and talks were given by attending researchers. Systems included the Clearpath Kingfisher, AQUA underwater robots from McGill University, and other robot and sensor systems currently under development.

Left: Group photo of attendees and robots. Right: The AQUA robot before traversing the shore into the water.

December 15, 2014

On December 11 and 12, 2014, the NERVE Center hosted the "Human Augmentation and Army Vision 2025" roundtable discussion event. The event was organized by the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), UMass Lowell (both the NERVE Center and HEROES), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Experts in the fields of exoskeletons, prosthesis, robotics, and technology, from industry, research, government, and academia, attended the event to brainstorm a number of topics related to human augmentation. The roundtable discussion included talks and presentations from David Audet (NSRDEC), Hugh Herr (MIT Media Lab), and Daniel Ferris (University of Michigan).

David Audet from NSRDEC giving his opening remarks to kickoff the roundtable discussions.

For more information on this event, see:

November 17, 2014

The International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI) Western Regional Training Conference was held at the San Diego Fire Rescue Training Facility in California. At this event, the NERVE Center accompanied the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to set-up and administer an entire suite of response robot test methods in one of the on-site buildings, now designated as a regional robot testing and training facility. Approximately 75 bomb techs attended this event for training purposes, and many performed with robots in the test methods. The robots used at this event included the Qinetiq Dragon Runner 20, Remotec F6A, Remotec HD-1, Digital Vanguard, iRobot Packbot, and iRobot FirstLook. A few bomb techs who were particularly proficient with one of the sytems spent the entire event at the facility performing on many of the test methods. Students from the IABTI conference also toured the facility throughout the day; these novice operators were trained on how to control some of the robots by the experts, using the test method apparatuses as teaching tools. The facility is now set up and available to be used by regional first responders.

Left: Qinetiq Dragon Runner 20 performing dexterous inspection on a pipe star in the radial bay, controlled by a novice operator.
Right: The iRobot expert operator instructing a novice operator how to control the Packbot to perform dexterous inspection.

November 3, 2014

Clearpath Robotics recently updated their blog with a post regarding their demonstration during last month's RoboBiz Reception. During the event, their robots Husky, Jackal, and Kingfisher exhibited their capabilities in many of the NERVE center's test courses, including the crossing ramps, sand, gravel, outdoor terrains, the ant farm, and the fording basin. A video highlighting their activity is available below:

Read the write-up on NERVE at the Clearpath blog here:

October 20, 2014

The past week has seen many events take place in and around the NERVE Center focused on ROS and RoboBusiness.

NERVE Short Course: ROS Best Practices

On Tuesday, October 14, 2014, a short course on ROS (Robot Operating System) was held, focusing on best practices and new implementations of the software to control a variety of robots. The session featured presentations and demos from Tully Foote (Open Source Robotics Foundation), Chad Jenkins (Brown University), Ian McMahon (Rethink Robotics), and Eric McCann, Dan Brooks, Jordan Allspaw, and Eric Marcoux (UMass Lowell Robotics Lab).

Presentation slides are available in PDF form at the following link:

Chad Jenkins from Brown University presenting on the use of ROS for Web/Cloud Robotics

MassTLC Presents RoboBiz Reception at the NERVE Center

In the evening of Tuesday, October 14, 2014, a reception to kick off the annual RoboBusiness conference was held at the NERVE Center in collaboration with MassTLC. The event housed 150+ attendees and 14 vendors demoing mobile robots, manipulators, exoskeletons, and more, from companies including Adept MobileRobots, Aldebaran, Clearpath Robotics, Empire Robotics, Energid & Robai, KTS Associates, Rethink Robotics, ReWalk Robotics, iRobot, RasLabs, MathWorks, and VGo Communications. At the event, the robotics ecosystem in Massachusetts was highlighted, and the NERVE Center was gifted a map of state that highlights the many companies, research institutions, universities, and test sites that are present in the state. A big thank you to MassTLC and event sponsor Finnegan for making this possible!

Speakers from the reception point to the NERVE Center's starred location within the New England Robotics Ecosystem.
Left to right: Linda Thayer, partner at Finnegan; Julie Chen, Vice Provost of Research at UMass Lowell;
Holly Yanco, NERVE Director; Tom Hopcroft, President and CEO of MassTLC.

RoboBusiness Exhibit Booth and Speaker Session

The University of Masschusetts Lowell was a contributing sponsor to this year's RoboBusiness conference. We staged a miniature test method apparatus in the exhibit hall to promote the NERVE Center and Robotics Lab during the conference, held October 15-17, 2014 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The test method featured elements of the new NIST training methods focused on response robot manipulation, as well as a full-fledged quad view camera system to demonstrate the manner in which testing is recorded. Director Holly Yanco also gave a talk within the "Commercial Design Trends" conference track titled "Improving Robotic Systems Using Research, Testing and Training."

Left: Test method with manipulation and mobility tasks within the NERVE Center exhibit booth. Right: Quad screen camera view.

September 1, 2014

The NERVE Center recently participated in a regional robot testing and operator training exercise, organized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in Huntsville, Alabama, on August 25-28, 2014. The event took place alongside the Bomb Squad Commander's Conference where over 200 bomb squad techs gathered to learn about the response robot standards evaluation process. The current prototyped set of test methods for operator proficiency and training were built on-site, outside of the Huntsville Marriott, and used over a period of 4 days. Companies including Cobham, ICOR, iRobot, Qinetiq, Remotec, and WM Robotics were there to test, expose end-users to their robots, and train bomb techs how to approriately use their platforms for a variety of mobility, manipulation, and sensor tasks.

This was the first event to mark the start of a new grant from NIST to the NERVE Center, focused on the development of test methods for operator proficiency and training. The NERVE Center will be receiving a set of the latest prototyped test methods to set up, wherein local robotics companies and bomb squad personnel will be invited to aid in their development.

August 1, 2014

The NERVE Center was recently awarded funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to begin reseach and development of test methods for autonomous robots in manufacturing environments. The test methods will be housed at the NERVE Center, where companies with robots that function in industrial settings will be invited to participate in the development process. This work will strengthen the already highly productive and collaborative partnership between NERVE and NIST.

April 9, 2014

The MassTLC Robotics Cluster held a seminar today on "The Future of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Testing in Massachusetts," featuring a keynote presentation by H. Carter Hunt, Vice President of Defense Sector Initiatives at MassDevelopment, Joint Base Cape Code, on the formation of NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance), as well as a panel discussion on UAV applications with Waseem Naqvi of Raytheon, Frank Serna of Draper Labs, Jason Walker of CyPhy Works, and Adam Norton of the NERVE Center. Read more here!

April 7, 2014

In response to numerous requests, the NERVE Center is now offering shared hourly usage for reserving and using test apparatuses. The NERVE Center always houses the most up-to-date standard test methods from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as those prototyping and validating for future standards. Click here for more information!

April 4, 2014

The NERVE Center was honored to host NASA Commander Christopher Cassidy today to give him a tour of our testing facility and demonstrate UMass Lowell's winning entry, the Rover Hawk, to the 2013 NASA RASC-AL Robo-Ops Competition. He took control of the Rover Hawk and gave us some insight into the types of robotic devices he's used during his career as an astronaut. Even more exciting, Commander Cassidy was able to control the Rover Hawk using our interface to locate and pick up a colored rock with its gripper. This was part of a two-day tour of Lowell for the astronaut, sponsored by the city. Click here for more information on his visit to Lowell!

NASA Commander Christopher Cassidy controlling the UMass Lowell Rover Hawk alongside one of the project leads Eric McCann

Click here to see more photos from Chris Cassidy's visit to the UMass Lowell NERVE Center

January 17, 2014

The UMass Lowell Rover Hawks and the NERVE Center were recently featured on Discovery Channel Canada's Daily Planet. The segment is viewable online here:

October 18, 2013

The Lowell Sun published an article covering the recent "Rise of the Robots" cluster event held at the NERVE Center on October 17, 2013. A video of the robot demos from the event can be seen below. Click here to read the article!

October 14, 2013

On Friday, October 11, 2013, the NERVE Center was featured among many other robotics institutions on WCVB Channel 5's Chronicle. The program focused on robotics in Massachusetts, and include other local companies including Harvest Automation, Kiva, and CyPhy. The program is split into three parts, linked below; the NERVE Center is featured in Part One.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three


June 17, 2013

The June 2013 issue of IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, Vol. 20, No. 2, featured a full page advertisement for the NERVE Center. The ad can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail below. The ad also features the Seekur Jr. from Adept MobileRobots.

June 11, 2013

The UMass Lowell Rover Hawks have taken first place in this year's NASA RASC-AL Robo-Ops Competition! Their robot, the Rover Hawk, was built by Holly Yanco's Robotics I class of the Spring 2013 semester, led by three graduate students: James Dalphond, Eric McCann, and Brigit Schroeder. The competition saw rovers from eight universities driving around the Johnson Space Center Rockyard, locating and collecting colored rocks. The rover went through three iterations, each of which were tested at the NERVE Center, utilizing the sand and gravel pits, as well as a variety of ramps and inclines. During the competition the mission control team was stationed at the NERVE Center, controlling the robot over a cellular network. The Rover Hawks scored the most points on the Rockyard, took first place for social media outreach, and took home an award for their spectacular interface design. The team was awarded $6,000, which they plan to put towards a CNC machine to aid with building a new rover for next year's competition.

Lowell Sun: UMass Lowell team wins NASA competition to build Mars rover

Tewksbury Town Crier: Roverhawks compete for NASA glory

Nashua Telegraph: Are there any college kids who aren't building robots to explore other planets?

June 3, 2013

The Department of Defense has awarded 77 academic institutions to support the purchase of research instrumentation and equipment. The director of the NERVE Center, Holly Yanco, is one of 140 university researchers to receive a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) award. The award will fund tools for robot development, including a laser cutter, 3D printer, and more. A full list of winners can be found by clicking here.

For more information see the official press release on the U.S. Department of Defense's website.

April 1, 2013

Director of the NERVE Center, Holly Yanco, has been named one of Mass High Tech's Women to Watch for 2013. This annual program recognizes women in tech and life sciences "who are thought leaders in their field and shaping the future of their industries for years to come." This year’s 20 honorees were selected from more than 125 nominations. Congratulations, Holly!

Holly Yanco's Women to Watch profile:

To see all 20 honorees on Boston Business Journal, follow this link:

May 25, 2013

WBUR recently ran a story about robotics in New England, featuring CyPhy Works, Adept MobileRobots, and the NERVE Center. Listen to the story and see some photos on the Radio Boston website here.

February 19, 2013

Our grand opening was a great success! Around 250 people were in attendance, with robot demos from iRobot, Harvest Automation, Applied Research Associates, VGo Communications, Adept MobileRobots, Aldebaran Robotics, Caliper Industrial Design, QinetiQ, and the UMass Lowell Robotics Lab. Check out some press from the event:


Boston Business Journal

Boston Herald

Lowell Sun




Robotics Tomorrow

UML News

UML Sildeshow

WBUR Interview


For a quick overview of the opening event, check out this video from UMass Lowell:


January 22, 2013

The initial build is complete! Ann Virts from NIST joined us for our build last week and it was very successful. Check out a few photos below:

January 11, 2013

The NERVE Center team is deep in the process of building robot test courses. Next week we will be finishing fabrication of the NIST test courses we are replicating, which includes stairs, gaps, hurdles, crossing/continuous pitch and roll ramps, symmetric stepfields, and elements from the manipulation dexterity suite.

Our grand opening has been scheduled for February 12, 2013. For more information click here!

December 10, 2012

Initial construction for the NERVE Center is complete! We will begin moving in this week, and test course fabrication will begin next week. As part of the initial construction we have our fording basins and splash pools, seen below. Also check out a short video of our indoor rain area in action:

Look for more in-process photos as we begin building the NIST testing apparatuses.

June 18, 2012

The NERVE Center has been awarded $135,000 from the President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund. It is one of six research projects that were funded, which range from creating standards for testing robotic systems to detecting financial fraud in large-scale securities data to developing new skin cancer imaging technologies.

New England Robotics Validation & Experimentation (NERVE) Center - UMass Lowell
The center will provide robotics companies and research institutions with a National Institute of Standards and Technology designed test course for year-round validation of robots and robotic systems. Collaborators include UMass Amherst's Rod Grupen and Tufts University, while Worcester Polytechnic Institute and local robotics companies such as iRobot, QinetiQ, Black-I Robotics are likely to use the NERVE Center.
Award: $135,000; Principal researcher: Holly Yanco, founder, UMass Lowell Robotics Lab

Read the entire article here: UMass President awards $750,000 for Innovative Faculty Research



UMass Lowell NERVE Center, 110 Canal Steet, Lowell, MA 01852
For more information, please contact or call 978-934-6600