Home UCF home
  University of Central Florida Spring 2009

Robotics Club Takes Top Honors in Virginia at Autonomous Surface Vehicle Competition

UCF's Robotics Club came back from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International/Office of Naval Research second international surface vehicle competition much wiser and $6,000 richer. The club was one of eight university teams that competed in Virginia Beach, VA during the June 18-21 event held at the Founders Inn.

University of Rhode Island came in second. Also competing were Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Virginia Tech, Florida Atlantic University, University of Toronto and University of Michigan.

Team members are Ross Kerley (team captain), Mike Podel, Cassondra Puklavage, Chris Bunty, Travis Goldberg, Justin Wiseman, Brian Valentino and Jonathan Mohlenhoff.some of the team

Above: S.S. Boatname; Right: (l. to r.) Cassondra Puklavage, graduate advisor Gary Stein and Mike Podel check programming details; Below: Podel maneuvers the vehicle for calibration.

Prior to departure the team spent last-minute hours at the pond next to IST's Partnership II building, working out the bugs and adding what they hope were final programming touches.

"I think we have a good chance of bringing home another UCF victory this weekend," said the team's captain Ross Kerley. Success, according to Kerley, will be "due to the hard work and innovations of the robotics team." Team members have invested countless hours in the vehicle's design, fabrication and programming.

The 4.5-foot pontooned "S.S. Boatname" relies solely on the program to navigate itself through the series of challenges set by competition organizers.

The team—IST's Daniel Barber is faculty advisor—completely redesigned the watercraft for this year's competition, based on lessons learned last year in San Diego. At that contest (see story) predecessor "Son of a Boatname" brought back top honors and $8,000 in prize money.

According to team documents, the S.S. Boatname is larger and more maneuverable than last year's entry. The team designed electronic and mechanical components to be more accessible in the field. A wireless interface allows remote access to the computer components.

AUVSA team members



Robotics Club autonomous vehicle competition members (left to right): faculty advisor Daniel Barber, team captain Ross Kerley, Cassondra Puklavage, Chris Bunty, Jonathan Mohlenhoff, graduate advisor Gary Stein, Mike Podel, Travis Goldberg. In the center: the triumphant S.S. Boatname.




Challenges this year include maintaining a heading while travelling at top speed, navigating through a reef, docking with a sinking ship, picking up a stranded lifeboat and fighting pirates (the craft is equipped with a water cannon). The team tailored the boat's hardware and software specifically to meet these challenges.

More information about this year's event is at the AUVSI.org Website.

UCF and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
to offer M&S Professional Science Master's degree

The Modeling and Simulation Professional Science MS degree is a business/technical degree for working professionals and others who want to expand their knowledge and skills in modeling and simulation business and enhance their career opportunities. The course provides a strong combination of business and technical courses and includes a graduate internship.

The curriculum consists of 12 courses (36 credit hours). UCF will offer eight technical courses online—five by UCF's Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Science and three by faculty at the Institute for Simulation and Training. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University will offer the remaining four business classes. The Embry-Riddle classes are also available online and at more than 130 of Embry-Riddle's Worldwide Campus classroom locations.

Students will enroll both in the graduate school at UCF and at Embry-Riddle. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for enrollment, but those who enter the program are expected to have an appropriate technical background in engineering, computer science or other simulation-related disciplines, through academic preparation and/or work experience.

They must also have fulfilled the prerequisite graduate-level engineering statistics course or an equivalent based on previous academic experience to be eligible.

Required Courses (jump to the UCF catalog for the official list)
Course Descriptions
for the cohort beginning Fall 2009

Students will enroll both in the graduate school at UCF and at Embry-Riddle. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required for enrollment, but those who enter the program are expected to have an appropriate technical background in engineering, computer science or other simulation-related disciplines, through academic preparation and/or work experience. They must also have fulfilled the prerequisite graduate-level engineering statistics course or an equivalent based on previous academic experience to be eligible...More information at the M&S Professional Science MS Webpage.

Partnership III Building Construction Begins

dozer in the woodsContractors began site clearing for the third in the series of UCF buildings in the Central Florida Research Park dedicated to partnerships among UCF and the Department of Defense. The five-level office and research lab facility will be shared by the Institute for Simulation & Training, other UCF departments and components of the defense community.

IST will coordinate construction of the $20 million building. Funding is provided from state sources.

Originally cut from Florida’s 2007 budget, funding for the building was committed in 2008, just ahead of the economic downturn. Driving motivation for the partnership series is to help sustain Orlando as a hub for simulation research and industry development. P3 artist conceptThe Partnership facilities help maintain a significant DoD presence, which, in turn, contributes to the local economy.

"The new building and the three other joint-use research park buildings whose renovation or construction IST has supervised are models of cooperation that have helped simulation R & D stay strong in Central Florida," said IST Director Randall Shumaker.

IST Associate Director for External Development Mark Yerkes manages the project for UCF. He also was in charge of Partnership II construction in 2003-2004. Yerkes said new construction will benefit considerably from reuse of the former building’s designs.

"P-III is basically a mirror image of P-II," said Yerkes. "That saved a lot of time and several millions in architectural design costs, allowing us to add energy efficiency improvements to qualify for an environmentally friendly 'LEED® Silver' designation."

LEED® is an internationally recognized certification system that verifies a building project is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to work.

When construction is completed (target: summer of 2010) IST will consolidate its labs and offices into the lower floors of both P-II and P-III.

IST researcher invited to study high performance computing in Japan

Institute for Simulation & Training Research (IST) Associate Ravi Palaniappan will spend this summer in Japan promoting UCF and IST research in wireless networking and high performance computing, courtesy of the Japan Society for Promotion of Sciences (JSPS).

The Society provides opportunities for young researchers from North America and Europe to receive an orientation on Japanese culture and research systems and to pursue research under the guidance of host researchers at Japanese universities and research institutes.

The High Performance Computing Center at IST, powered by a 648-core IBM System Cluster 1350, in April marked its first anniversary online. Computing center researchers are seeking ways to develop direct interactive programs that enable the HPC, unlike traditional super computer batch processors, to provide near real-time results.

Palaniappan helped develop the high performance computer’s networking capability to connect with UCF faculty and local industry through Internet links. He will share his research with faculty from Tsukuba University, Osaka University and Fukuoka Institute of Technology during the mid-June through August visit that will include stays in Tokyo, Yokohama and Fukuoka. More about the High Performance computing Center...

Robotics Club scores a third place at SoutheastCon 2009

The IST-sponsored UCF Robotics Club came home with a third place win at the IEEE SoutheastCon robot competition held March 5 -8 in Atlanta. Competition was among 37 teams required to build a small autonomous "Recycling Robot" capable of locating, collecting and sorting different cans and glass and plastic bottles.  

The vehicle had to fit within a 12x12x18 inch box at the start of the match, but could unfold to reach its full beverage-collecting potential. All sorting and storage of collected items had to be done on the vehicle. A further challenge was to avoid driving over a hidden electric fence. Robot

The "Wall-e"-inspired robot would prototype a possible solution to the waste problem created by tailgaiting parties at athletic stadiums and college campuses. One or more of these manpower-saving vehicles could be turned loose within the confines of an event area to tirelessly hunt down, retrieve and sort for recycling all the cans and bottles left behind by revelers.

UCF Team members are students Gary Stein (graduate student advisor/programming, construction), Cassondra Puklavage (team captain), Johathan Mohlenhoff (electronics), Paul Nelson (electronics), Michael Scherer (construction) and Christopher Nergard (construction). IST faculty advisor is Daniel Barber.

SoutheastCon is the premier conference for the IEEE southeastern U.S. region. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, areas of Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the country of Jamaica participate.

The robotics challenge is a popular part of the conference, which draws together students and faculty from electrical and computer engineering and computer science to share the latest information through technical sessions, tutorials, professional development sessions and exhibits.

You can view pictures and video of the UCF Robotics Club vehicle at the following Website locations. http://robotics.ucf.edu/gallery/gallery.php?gallery=ieee. Final runs are at this link. See all the robotic competitors in the video here.


Three-volume Handbook of Virtual Environments for Training and Education provides comprehensive coverage of requirements for effective training

IST's Denise Nicholson, PhD and co-editors Navy Commander Dylan Schmorrow, PhD and Navy Lieutenant Commander Joseph Cohn, PhD recently announced availability of their three-volume The PSI Handbook of Virtual Environments for Training and Education (LC Card #2008027367), a comprehensive collection of chapters by numerous experts in the many different domains whose integration is a must for effective training and education in virtual environments.

three-volume setThis is the first time comprehensive coverage has been available from a single, readily accessible reference set.

Published by Praeger Security International (PSI) and available through Greenwood Publishing Group, Volume I, Learning Requirements and Metrics, provides insight to the human-centric specifications the VE must satisfy to succeed, with chapters dedicated to a thorough understanding of learning theory, requirements definition and performance measurement.

Volume II, VE Components and Training Technology, provides the latest information on VE component technologies and Volume III, yada dada, offers discussion of an extensive collection of integrated systems presented as VE use-cases and study results. Text includes emerging directions of this evolving technology, from cognitive rehabilitation to the next generation of museum exhibitions.

The three-volume set will interest students, scholars and researchers in military science, technology, computer science, business, law enforcement, cognitive psychology, education and health. Covered topics include guidance and interventions using VE as a teaching tool, what to look for in human-centered systems and components, and current training uses in the military services. Authors explain game-based and long-distance training and the specific challenges of VE sickness, combining VE and cybernetics, robotic interfaces and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Nicholson is director of the Applied Cognition & Training in Virtual Environments Lab at IST. To learn more about the ACTIVE Lab's research go HERE.

Links to other stories


IST Home


 3100 Technology Parkway, Orlando, FL 32826