CI-TEAMS Project Summary

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Complex engineering systems are now routinely designed and analyzed in-silico, with minimal reliance on ex- pensive physical prototyping. Such systems are essentially massive data sets embedded within a highly intricate semantic structure. Enabling current and future generations of engineers to perform in-silico prototyping (in- cluding design, visualization, and physics-based simulation) systems remains a formidable task. The problems are multi-disciplinary and the tools require substantial integrative knowledge to master.

The objective of this CI-Team demonstration is to create a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, engineering model. To focus this effort, the team has chosen the important emerging engineering domain of snake-inspired robotic systems. Snake-inspired robots have many potential applications, including those in medicine, civil engineering (e.g., inspection), search and rescue, and homeland security. For our CI-Team demonstration, the comprehensive engineering model will include semantic descriptions of robotic components, behavioral and simulation software, software for snake robot control and navigation, as well as the tools needed to perform analysis, component surrogation and mission assessment. This effort will be undertaken as part of a coordinated set of multi-disciplinary courses developed by the PIs and concurrently taught across the partner institutions and accessible via eLearning systems.

One key demonstration objective is to create a “Source Forge” focused on the domain of building shared engineering models. This will include tools for design collaboration and information sharing, as well as the distance learning and educational materials. The team will use this to define components and tools needed to advance the state of the art in snake-inspired robotic systems. This repository will be made available over the Internet and provided for use by educators and researchers around the country and the world. Further, we will work with our partners in government and industry to rapidly transition new concepts on knowledge represen- tation, standards, and software interoperability into ongoing efforts at the National Institute of Standands and Technology (NIST), United States Department of Energy (DoE), ISO and the W3C.

Intellectual Merit: The proposed CI-Team is an inter-disciplinary group from four universities consisting of computer scientists and engineers with complimentary expertise needed to create both the shared model and the educational deliverables. In doing so, the CI-Team will demonstrate a focused example of Cyber-Infrastructure for supporting in-silico engineered systems. The technical work spans and integrates disciplines: semantics, engineering model representations, and computational tools. The efforts of this CI-Team will show how to more deeply connect different sub-fields of engineering and computer science. In addition, the resuling model will en- able the rapid creation and simulation of new snake-inspired robot designs. While the targeted domain is snake robotics, the proposed modeling effort also applies to other complex engineered artifacts such as power-plants, aircraft, MEMS, and other emerging technologies in which design and simulation is important.

Broader Impact: The proposal contributes to the transformation of engineering into an “informatics” discipline and broadens the interface between computer science and engineering. The PIs will work closely with NIST, DoE and industrial collaborators to disseminate the resulting representations and systems. Ultimately, however, the CI-Team aims to stimulate creation of a new engineering knowledge industry, leading to productivity gains similar to those that resulted from introduction of CAD systems over the last twenty years. The “science of integration” that can be enabled by improving our collective ability to create shared models will be instrumental in developing the next generation undergraduate and graduate curricula in engineering and computer science.

Education and Training Impact: Recent reports from NSF, NAE and DoD have all lamented the fact that the “inter-disciplinary engineers” so desperately needed simply do not exist in adequate numbers to fulfill current needs. There are not enough educational intitiatives and programs to produce these new engineers, nor have the standard, stove-piped, curriculas of engineering and computer science departments adapted to this need.

This CI-Team, representing a set not found at any one university, is uniquely positioned to address this national challenge. The team plans an ambitious use of tele-collaboration, eLearning and distance education technologies to propel this project and generate initial Cyber-Infrastructure content. Our ultimate goal is to enable students to begin a curriculum of “Engineering Informatics” and define the content of the new Cyber- Engineering discipline that unites computer and information sciences with traditional engineering domains.