Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

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Fordham Robotics and Computer Vision Lab Comes Into Its Own

Fordham robotics and Computer vision lab comes into its own

With a series of recent high-profile grants, Fordham University’s Robotics and Computer Vision Laboratory is quickly becoming a nationally recognized leader in robotics technology and automated surveillance. Not bad for a lab that’s not even a decade old. 

Established in 2002 by Damian Lyons, Ph.D., an associate professor of computer and information science and chair of the department, and Frank Hsu, Ph.D., the Clavius Distinguished Professor and the associate dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the lab recently received a $670,000 grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to develop robotics research and education in the Bronx.

Working in conjunction with the University’s RETC—Center for Professional Development and the Science and Technology Entry Program/ Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP/C STEP), the lab is working to enhance and expand research opportunities and teaching capabilities—not just within the University but also in neighboring high schools.

The program is designed to prepare high school students to excel in science , math and technology based careers, according to Lyons, who joined the faculty at Fordham in 2002 after spending 16 years with Philips Research North America.

“By linking the research and educational resources of Fordham University with that of area schools, we can provide substantive professional development for Bronx science and mathematics high school teachers and educational enrichment for the students they serve,” said Lyons.

The program’s objective is to use robotics as an interactive methodology to teach and illustrate concepts in mathematics, the physical and natural sciences, engineering and computer science, Lyons noted.

The DOE grant will cover the cost of new equipment used in the collaborative project. At the same time, the lab recently received a grant from the Army Research Office of the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a prototype robotic device to conduct military reconnais¬sance in potentially dangerous areas, such as the increasingly treacherous Afghanistan Pakistan border.

“First responders to disaster areas face a life threatening and crucial task,” said Lyons. “We are developing the theory and practice necessary to deploy teams of robot vehicles to map disaster areas in a fast and efficient manner, so that human first respond¬ers can navigate in a safe manner to bring aid to victims.”

Lyons and his team are also investigating the use of a complex 3-D simulation environment that will act as the robot’s eyes so that the robot can navigate a specific terrain—like an unstable pile of masonry, for instance, to aid in urban disaster recovery missions.

The lab has collaborated with researchers at Georgia Tech, Brigham Young and the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico (ITAM). One current collaboration with Pace University is to design a cognitive architecture for a Pioneer mobile robot with a full set of human like characteristics, including perception, language, learning and problem solving skills.

“Our long term objective is to explore goal directed sensing motion and action in the physical world,” Lyons said.

Put together, the lab is advancing the fields of robotics and automated surveillance in ways unimaginable six short years ago.

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