Spot, meet President Choi

July 14, 2021

MU System President Mun Choi chats with students

Engineering students Chris Scully, Trevontae Haughton and Cj Harris show Spot to President Choi.

What do you get when the University of Missouri President, five undergraduate engineering students and three robot dogs meet in Jesse Hall? A little laughter, some robotic dance moves and an encounter junior Trevontae’ Haughton won’t soon forget.

“Doing research and working with Spot has been my favorite experience at Mizzou,” Haugton, a student from the Information Technology program, said. “Not many people, or especially undergrads, get to have this research experience.”

Haughton, along with other students who work with Spot — the agile robot from Boston Dynamics — provided a demonstration of the machine’s capabilities to President Choi. These included Spot running, walking down the stairs of Jesse Hall and performing a choreographed dance.

“This is an opportunity unlike any other for our undergraduates,” said Brian Maurer, director of the IT program. “Experiences like this are paramount in our program and pave the road directly to tomorrow’s industry and employers.”

During the meeting, Haughton got to share with President Choi the future of the technology and its research applications for the University.

Haughton began his research with Spot this summer as a Missouri Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (MoLSAMP) scholar. MoLSAMP is a National Science Foundation-funded program that provides undergraduate STEM research opportunities to students from underrepresented groups in Missouri. Through this program, Haughton, a St. Louis native, works with his mentor Dale Musser, an associate teaching professor in Information Technology, in the Autonomous Systems Lab.

“Being a part of this program gives you the research experience in case you want to go to grad school,” Haughton said. “It’s great for preparing for that next step.”

Haughton, who chose Mizzou Engineering after participating in the Summer Bridge Program, said he is pursuing Information Technology because of his interest in technology and the versatility of the major. He said the community he’s found within the program has become an important piece of his experience and success.

 “The people at Mizzou are all great people,” Haughton said. “I always look to them for advice, for help and for that next step to keep going.”

As a freshman, Haughton began building this community by participating in the Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative (MBMI), a leadership and identity development program. He is also a member of the Mizzou National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), where he served on the Junior Executive Board.

Now, through his research with Spot, Haughton’s community has expanded to include new mentors, fellow students from the Autonomous Systems Lab and even the President of the University.