Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering
Advancing Mobile Robots to 3D
The Grove School of Engineering at City College offered Jizhong Xiao the opportunity to create a research program in robotics and intelligent systems. That initiative, which Dr. Xiao began in 2002, is in full swing. It is an example of the rapid expansion into crucial new fields in science and engineering taking place at City College.
The multidisciplinary nature of intelligent robotics research requires collaborations among faculty with expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering and computer science. With an NSF Computing Research Infrastructure grant and funding from the Grove School, Dr. Xiao and his colleagues have established a Center for Perceptual Robotics, Intelligent Sensors and Machines (PRISM) on campus. Their goal is to create a center of excellence in cutting-edge research, as well as a national urban model for minority education in robotics and related fields.
Dr. Xiao is using his CAREER grant to develop a general framework and theoretical foundation to address planning, control and coordination issues pertaining to robots that can operate in the three-dimensional environment. His investigation will focus on getting multiple mobile units to operate in concert with one another, especially in constrained, urban environments.
“Most of the existing planning and control methods for multi-robot systems are no longer valid,” he explains. “A new framework is needed to deal with the hard, yet previously unexplored, research domain involving wall-climbing robots. If we are successful, these machines will be useful in applications ranging from surveillance to counter terrorism to automated building inspections.”
Dr. Xiao, who began investigating wall-climbing robots as a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University, has developed a new generation of single-module wall-climbing robot, the City Climber. The device relies on a vacuum chamber that produces just enough suction to keep it clinging to the wall yet still able to maneuver freely. Sensors attached to the module help it remain attached to vertical surfaces, and video cameras aid in navigation.
Next, Dr. Xiao intends to deploy a two-module mobile robot that could move from floor to wall to ceiling. He will use this machine to study the challenges relating to coordination of multiple robot systems involving ground vehicle robots and City Climber robots in urban environments.
Dr. Xiao’s grant will enable him to integrate his research activities into City College’s engineering curriculum. He intends to create mentored research experiences for students, robotics extension programs for K-12 education and other education and outreach activities to improve the pipeline of students interested in robotics.