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LTU hosting students of self-driving car technology from around the nation

Release Date: May 24, 2022
REU program May 23

Students in an LTU summer program to develop new algorithms to control autonomous vehicles pose in the University's Buell Building Atrium with the two electric autonomous vehicles they will be programming.
LTU photo / Matt Roush

SOUTHFIELD—Eight students from around the country have arrived on the campus of Lawrence Technological University to begin a summer of advancing the state of the art in self-driving cars.

The students are at LTU through a three-year, $281,712 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. The grant will fund three summers of the program with a new cohort of eight students participating each summer. 

The students will work at LTU to develop computer software for use in autonomous vehicles.

C.J. Chung, professor of computer science at LTU and principal investigator on the grant, said the program “is a unique, probably unprecedented opportunity offered to undergraduate students to focus on the development of algorithms used in autonomous vehicles, using real vehicles on real roads for testing.”

Through Chung’s efforts, LTU has obtained two Polaris GEM electric city cars, which have been outfitted with autonomous driving equipment donated by several Detroit-area software and autonomous vehicle products companies.

The eight students in the first cohort, selected through a competitive process, are:

  • Aarna Bhuptani of Texas, a computer science and mathematics major at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
  • Cebastian Chinolla of Texas, a computer science and mathematics major at the University of Texas at El Paso
  • Ryan Joseph Kaddis of Michigan, a computer science major at LTU
  • Alexander Quezada of New York, a computer science major at City University of New York’s Lehman College
  • Shika Rao, a U.S. citizen living in India, who is an electrical, electronics, communications, and robotics major at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India
  • Seth Rodriguez of Texas, a computer science and mathematics major at the University of Texas at El Paso
  • Heather Song of Ohio, a statistics major at Ohio State University
  • Enver Stading of Iowa, a mathematics and integrative data science major at Nebraska Wesleyan University

Over the summer, the students will develop algorithms to control the electric vehicles which will be tested on a road course set up on an LTU parking lot. Students’ scores will be determined by how well the cars self-steer the course, while not touching lane markers, compared to Chung driving the course in one of the Polaris GEM cars himself.

An official demonstration of the students’ work and a project poster presentation is scheduled for Thursday, July 14.

Co-principal investigator on the grant is Josh Siegel, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University and lead instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s DeepTech Bootcamp. He will work with the students to develop an autonomous intersection management system, AIMS. Siegel is also an alumnus of LTU's Robofest robotics competition for middle and high school students, which Chung created in 1999.

During the students’ first day on LTU campus May 23, Mark Wilson, professor of urban and regional planning at MSU, gave a presentation on the importance of autonomous vehicle research. Also, Lisa Kujawa, LTU vice president of enrollment management, welcomed and congratulated them on being selected to participate in such a leading-edge project for undergraduates. She also noted that LTU was established in 1932 at Ford Motor Co.’s Highland Park plant that produced the Model T—a vehicle that changed the face of transportation around the world. She said the students will be doing the same this summer.

Technical mentors involved in this program are Nicholas Paul, an LTU alumnus and adjunct faculty; Giuseppe DeRose, adjunct faculty; computer science robotics lab research staff Mitchell Pleune and Mark Kocherovsky; LTU Master of Science in computer science students Joseph Schulte and Justin Dombecki; and Bachelor of Science in computer science student Adilur Choudhury.

For more information on this grant, visit https://www.ltu.edu/arts_sciences/mathematics_computer_science/nsf.asp

Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include over 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.


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