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Lawrence Tech students form research committee for autonomous vehicles and robotic systems

Release Date: January 31, 2011

SOUTHFIELD, Mich.– Engineering students at Lawrence Technological University have formed the Autonomous Vehicles and Robotic Systems Student Committee as part of the Great Lakes Chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). All members will participate in research projects in autonomously operating vehicles and various robotic systems.

This is the first AUVSI Student Committee in Michigan and perhaps the entire country. It has been made possible with help from co-advisors Bruce Legge, president of the Great Lakes Chapter, and John Wilson, sales and engineering manager of National Instruments, which has been a strong supporter of mechatronics at Lawrence Tech.

“Having students involved in the Great Lakes Chapter is important because they represent the future of our organization,” Legge said. “This is why we all together initiated this student research organization.”

“Lawrence Tech’s mechatronics program taps into a major industry trend of increasingly leveraging software and electronics to enhance mechanical and autonomous system performance. It reflects a general consumer trend of making buying decisions based on features that are software or electronic in nature.  The intelligent implementation of mechanical systems is a core focus area for our company and is an important step forward in meeting our country’s environmental, educational, and economic goals,” Wilson said.

Lawrence Tech’s mechatronics master’s degree program, which concentrates on autonomous/conventional ground vehicle and robotic systems engineering, was started in the fall of 2006 by Professor Vladimir Vantsevich. Sixteen people have graduated, and there are now 32 students in the program.

Vantsevich, who is the student committee’s faculty advisor, places a strong emphasis on student research projects. Since 2008 mechatronics students have joined him in writing eight research papers that have been published in peer-reviewed professional conference proceedings and journals, including the International Society for Terrain Vehicle Systems, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the International Forum on Mechatronics, the International Association for Vehicle System Dynamics, and Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering and Technology Symposium.

“Research is an essential element to my approach to mechatronics and its vehicle and various robotic applications,” Vantsevich said. “I want my students to tackle real engineering and basic science problems that the professionals face in this field.”

Participation in an ongoing research project is a requirement for joining the new Student Committee, and so far 24 students, including a few undergraduates, have accepted the challenge. They are involved in math and computer modeling of various robotic systems, designing and building autonomously operating systems and vehicles, developing data acquisition systems, and testing vehicles and robots.  Support for the projects comes from industry, TARDEC and mechatronics faculty.

Student Committee members pay $15 in dues to the AUVSI Great Lakes Chapter. They receive the chapter’s monthly magazine and can attend the Great Lakes Chapter events and meetings with presentations on industry topics.

“Attending the Chapter meetings will open the door to the job world,” Vantsevich said. “This is a great way for our students to meet people in government and industry, and even the owners of companies. This should create some great opportunities.” 

The three advisors believe that the establishment of the Student Committee will:

  • Enhance the development of innovative engineering curricula and research in autonomous vehicles and robotics at the graduate, undergraduate, and high school levels.
  • Establish a new type of continuous, consecutive and successive learning environment, which integrates students at various levels.
  • Help create new cutting-edge laboratory facilities.
  • Facilitate professional development of faculty members in cutting-edge technologies related to autonomous vehicles and robotics.

The AUVSI Great Lakes Chapter, National Instruments, and Lawrence Tech’s mechatronics faculty have agreed to work towards:

  • Increasing the technical knowledge of student members through research and design projects, meetings, speakers and tours.
  • Providing a forum to discuss industry issues and trends.
  • Creating opportunities to network with faculty and industry professionals.
  • Promoting AUVSI membership.
  • Encouraging high school students to develop an interest in science, math, autonomous vehicles and robotics.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey, Traverse City and Toronto. Lawrence Tech also partners with universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.