This proposal connects foundational research for multi-robot formations with the development of empowering experiences for women undergraduates in the classroom and beyond. The theoretical nature of the research is complemented by a firm grounding in hardware and computer vision fundamentals, integrated throughout a comprehensive education plan. The PI will develop an understanding of geometric formations of multi-robot systems, such as swarms in both 2- and 3-dimensions. Sensor and communication costs will be integral to modeling and algorithmic considerations, as minimizing power consumption is increasingly important for the design of lightweight and agile robot platforms. The PI will establish mathematical foundations and develop algorithms in three fundamental directions: (1) understanding a formation's structural properties, (2) producing optimal control architectures, and (3) predicting a formation?s internal motions. Developing a unifying theory from both theoretical and applied perspectives will produce a wealth of new directions, such as actuating a formation as if it were a single traditional robot.
The research contributions have the potential to significantly impact cutting-edge technology for the control and coordination of multi-robot systems. The PI is junior faculty at Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts college for women, where a recent growth in enrollments has led to an average of 15 computer science majors a year (surpassing the peak of 2002). She will engage this vibrant community of budding computer scientists through her proposed education plan. Two courses will be developed, designed to simultaneously educate undergraduates through core computer science principles and expose them to exciting research problems challenging the field. Students will have additional opportunities for experiences outside the classroom through highly visible robotics and computer vision projects on campus, producing role models for generations to come. By working closely with the student-run CS Club, the PI will establish a supportive environment that fosters growing interest in technology from traditionally under-represented groups. She will also actively involve students in research by supervising two undergraduates each summer through a compelling research experience.