$ 185,000 grant to advance mobile robot technology and create a new course

Robotic, unmanned ocean glider (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

Research on autonomous mobile robots at the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Engineering recently received a major boost thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant of $ 185,306 will allow the project leader and assistant professor Zhuoyuan song, and one EUH Student in Mānoa, for intensive training at the University of Washington eScience Institute on Machine Learning and Data-Driven Methods to Elevate College Research and Establish and Deepen Collaborative Relationships with Experts in the Field. The training is also expected to improve the overall competitiveness of Song’s research group, its students and EUH Mānoa in robotics and data science.

Song said, “We will work with the institute to find out how to identify energetically optimal paths for small mobile sensors, such as robots, to cross strong ocean currents; and develop data-driven approaches that allow us to uncover the fundamental principles that lead to emerging behaviors in nature, such as schools of fish, birds in droves and ants that congregate, and to control swarms of robots in the same way.

This work is expected to provide measurement data for weather forecasting and global ocean detection. Eventually, Song hopes to establish a formal collaboration between the eScience Institute and EUH‘s Hawaii The Institute for Data Science will benefit more EUH students and teachers.

Data science for engineers

Data science is a growing interdisciplinary field that focuses on extracting knowledge or models from data to make predictions about phenomena that were not easily achievable. The last few years have seen the landscape change from several classical fields of research such as fluid mechanics, biology and economics, towards data-driven approaches to answer their most difficult unanswered questions.

Robotics as an important application of artificial intelligence is at the forefront of the development of data science. There is currently a growing job market for data science experts in almost every field. The grant will also allow Song to establish a “Data Science for Engineers” course at EUH Manoa.

“This proposed course is part of my plan to maintain the impact of this new grant for the benefit of EUH and Hawaii“Song said.” The course will be aimed at undergraduates and graduate students of all disciplines. The aim is to educate students about the common tools used in data science and how they can complement student learning to solve classical engineering problems such as dynamic modeling, signal processing, control and optimization.

This work is an example of EUH Mānoa’s research excellence objective (PDF), one of the four objectives identified in the 2015-25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated in December 2020.

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