Campus News - October 15, 2001
ISE receives $1 million from NASA
By Michael Padilla
The recently created Center for Intelligent Systems Engineering (ISE) at the
UNM School of Engineering has two primary functions: Encourage minority students
to go to graduate school and design and develop projects for NASA.
The functions of the center really do complement each other, said
Peter Dorato, Electrical and Computer Engineering professor, who serves as director
of the center, funded recently by a $1 million grant from NASA renewable each
year for five years.
Its a great challenge, said Dorato. We must show NASA
that we are doing a great job while ensuring that we meet our goal in helping
our students succeed.
Dorato said the focus of the center is on the design of intelligent systems,
that is, systems with a high degree of autonomy. Autonomy is the functioning
of systems without human intervention.
Currently there are seven minority master and three minority doctoral students
working on research projects in three departments including Electrical and Computer
Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Projects include
creating cooperative satellite arrays, diagnostics of turbulent flow, fuzzy-logic
modeling, intelligent biomedical engineering and intelligent image processing.
One project at the center is creating robots that can communicate with each
other while working on a specific problem. The intention is to make the robots
work cooperatively similar to the way ants work.
Led by Professors Mohammad Jamshidi and Nader Vadiee, the project involves
several small robots working on various tasks instead of one large robot trying
to accomplish many tasks. An example of a task would be to gather rocks or other
objects and bring them together for analysis. The robots could also be used
to transport hazardous waste materials or for other activities that are dangerous
for human contact.
Dorato said he is fascinated with the level of students who are involved with
Its amazing what they know, he said. They teach me
new things everyday.
John Sanchez, a 1997 graduate from St. Pius X High School, is helping create
the robots. He is working with various computer programs to create a system
in which the robots can see and communicate with each other.
The robots are built from scratch, he said. We can program
them to do most anything.
In a demonstration, the robots were able to complete an obstacle course without
bumping into walls and boxes. With sensors attached to them, the robots were
able to figure out if something was in their way. The robots are powered by
small batteries and are instructed by commands entered into a computer, which
in turn relays them messages.
Dorato, who serves as the principal investigator for the first year of the
grant, is assisted by co-director Professor Timothy Ross of Civil Engineering.
The grant also supports research at three partner institutions: North Carolina
A&T, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Highlands University. NASA
has been supporting research efforts at UNM since 1995, under the Center for
Autonomous Control Engineering (ACE), directed by Professor Mohammad Jamshidi.
In its first five years, the program graduated 45 minority MS students and 12 minority Ph.D. students.
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