In this career development proposal, the Principal Investigator (PI) examines the development of frameworks to create, analyze, implement and validate cooperative payload transport capabilities in distributed robot collectives. The principal research questions pertain to the investigation of the nature and selection of the underlying physical and informational infrastructure, system architecture, and mechanisms of cooperation, with the goal of realizing implementations with quantifiable performance benefits. Such investigation is proposed in the specific context of creation, control and active reconfiguration of marching formations with variable numbers of mobile manipulators for cooperative payload transportation tasks. The three aspects of research identified for examination under the common theoretical but computationally tractable framework, include: (i) methodologies for design and optimization of formations for pre-specified tasks; (ii) scalable schemes for control and adaptation of formations for changing tasks; and (iii) quantitative examination of the role of modularity, sensing, communication, modeling and decentralization on cooperative performance. A two-pronged approach of extensive simulation-based study and rigorous experimental ratification is proposed to evaluate the performance of candidate systems. The key contribution from this investigation is the development of a flexible unified framework for design, analysis, control and validation of such cooperating systems and the broad applicability of the framework for uniformly treating: cooperative material-handling by a fleet of decentralized manipulation agents; hybrid articulated-wheeled systems with enhanced locomotion capabilities; and distributed haptic collaboration with a common virtual object within a shared virtual environment; is discussed. The overall educational goals are to develop the courses, tools and the human resource base to conceive, investigate, implement and validate such systems-of-systems. Specific educational initiatives include: (i) developing and integrating new undergraduate and graduate courses in robotics and mechatronics into the curriculum; (ii) strengthening and modernizing existing undergraduate courses in design and systems; (iii) creating educational technology curricular modules for encapsulating knowledge and providing a mechanism for outreach within the university, with local high schools and industry and the educational community at large.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)
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Jie Yang
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Suny at Buffalo
United States
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