The TECHLAV Center Celebrates Fourth Annual Meeting

Greensboro, NC  – The Center for Testing, Evaluation, and Control of Heterogeneous Large-scale Systems of Autonomous Vehicles (TECHLAV) convened professionals from across the academic, governmental and industrial spectrum to witness and celebrate research milestones regarding the autonomy capabilities of unmanned vehicles such as drones, rovers, surface and underwater vehicles.

This event marks the completion of the fourth year in a five-year cycle of grant funding provided by the United States Department of Defense. The annual convocation took place at one of the two subprime institutions, the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The two-day event, which took place in late June, is the Center’s fourth annual gathering, and the customary reflection point for the past year’s accomplishments. Students and faculty from N.C. A&T, the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute shared progress updates across the program’s three Thrust Areas as well as Education and Outreach. The group welcomed two keynote speakers to this year’s meeting, as well as hosting a poster session, panel discussions, a testbed presentation and unmanned vehicle demonstrations.

“The University of Texas at San Antonio was the ideal location for this year’s meeting,” said Shar Seyedin, TECHLAV’s Program Manager. “Their stunning campus, quaint River Walk and delicious cuisine provided the perfect backdrop for the camaraderie we’ve come to expect at our annual meetings.” Nearly 100 people attended the meeting which took place in UTSA’s John Peace Library Building.

Devices with autonomous control have the ability to self-govern with minimal human input. Autonomous system technology is of increasing interest throughout scientific and consumer circles, allowing operators to observe, record, make decisions and even take action in locations where physical human presence is either impossible or undesirable. These systems are separate entities from the people who operate them, so the more aligned an operator is with a system’s state, the more effective it will be. Creating this alignment through technology and research is TECHLAV’s primary mission.

The TECHLAV team organizes its research efforts within three parallel tracks which they call “thrusts”. Thrust 1, led by Dr. Mo Jamshidi at the University of Texas at San Antonio, includes the modeling, analysis and control pf Large-scale Autonomous Systems of Vehicles (LSAVs). Thrust 2, led by Dr. Ali Karimoddini at N.C. A&T, addresses resilient control and communication of LSAVs. Thrust 3 is led by Dr. Younho Seong at N.C. A&T which covers the testing, evaluation and verification of the LSAVs. Additionally, the Center attracts and exposes talented students, in particular underrepresented minorities, to a rich learning environment through its Education and Outreach efforts, led by Dr. John C. Kelly at N.C. A&T and Dr. Nader Vadiee at Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI).

“This is an exciting time to be involved with this type of research,” said Dr. Abdollah Homaifar, the newly appointed Samuel P. Langley Distinguished NASA Langley Chair Professor at the National Institute of Aerospace, Duke Energy Eminent Professor at N.C. A&T and TECHLAV Director. “Together our three campuses have made great strides in the area of autonomy. We are now a leading force within autonomy and machine learning. Our collective efforts during the first four years of this grant have truly put us on the map as being a cutting-edge autonomous Center.”

Over 50 undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students are involved in the TECHLAV Center represented by the three educational institutions. Students travel between campuses, curriculum is developed and shared among the partner institutions and community outreach promoting STEM education is occurring year-round at all three sites.

The TECHLAV Center has disseminated its work through over 100 publications, including three book chapters, 18 journal papers and 85 conference papers. The Center’s Scientific & Industry Advisory Board (SIAB) consists of 13 prominent researchers and leaders from industry, government, academia and the community. At the conclusion of the event, the Center’s SIAB expressed optimism and confidence about the Center’s progress.