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Fortuitous Encounters Lead Faculty Member to Cambodia and a Fulbright Scholar Award

Garrett Clayton, PhD
Garrett Clayton, PhD

Who: Garrett Clayton, PhD, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Chance encounters: AFulbright Scholar research/teaching grant resulted from a conversation five years earlier at the office copy machine, followed by a fortuitous meeting on a flight to Cambodia.

“I was making copies when Jordan Ermilio, director of Villanova Engineering Service Learning, came out of his office next to the copy machine, looking for a last-minute replacement to travel to Cambodia with him to identify projects at a rural elementary school. He asked me; I said yes, and three months later I was on a plane to Phnom Penh.” That flight proved to be equally well-timed. “On this plane ride, one of our students sat next to a Golden West Humanitarian Foundation employee. He invited us to visit their facility where we learned about GWHF’s position as a world leader in research and development for humanitarian mine action. Over dinner we decided to collaborate.”

A partnership in Cambodia: Five years and six trips to Cambodia later, Dr. Clayton’s relationship with GWHF has grown to includesenior design projects, a master’s thesis, and two ongoing doctoral projects on mechatronics and robotics for humanitarian mine action. In addition, he has started engaging with the Cambodian robotics community by co-organizing the Conference on Robotics in Cambodia.

Fulbright Scholar: Among his goals:

  • Strengthening the Cambodian robotics community
  • Researching robotic solutions for minefield area reduction
  • Teaching mechatronics—his area of expertise—at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia
  • Leading a teacher training workshop on active learning

EOD robot project: Work continues on an explosive ordnance disposal robot that has been the focus of Villanova’s relationship with GWHF since the two began collaborating in 2013. Visit the College of Engineering website to learn more about that project and to view a related video.