U.S. Army Research Laboratory Holds Summer Student Research Symposium
August 17, 2010
The fourth annual Summer Student Research Symposium was held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. on Aug. 10. A group of 11 finalists presented their summer projects to an audience of peers, ARL staff, and a judging panel which included Director John Miller and the ARL Fellows.
Each year summer student interns conduct research projects and compose technical reports recounting their internship work. The reports are evaluated by directorate judging panels, and the top submissions are selected as symposium finalists. Finalists provide presentations at the symposium, and gold, silver, and bronze cash prizes are awarded to the top three presentations in both undergraduate and graduate student categories.
This year, Miller provided the symposium's opening remarks and commended the students for the hard work and dedication they demonstrated throughout the summer.
The undergraduate student interns presented their projects first, followed by finalists from the graduate student category. After each student's presentation, the judges were given an opportunity to ask questions about the research. Once all presentations were complete, the judges deliberated and the winners were announced.
In the undergraduate category, Jamie Huang, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who worked in the Weapons and Material Research Directorate's (WMRD) Macromolecular Science and Technology Branch, received the gold award of $500 for her project titled Design of Biological/Synthetic Hybrid Material Approaches for Army Applications.
"All of the presentations were outstanding and it's an honor to be selected as the winner," Huang said.
Huang's project focused on a key aspect of hybrid systems for Army applications. She said the ability to control the interaction of a synthetic/biological material with its intended target is not only important, but will render much potential for future applications.
"The objective of the project was to control the wettability of chitosan by functionalizing it with hydrophilic or hydrophobic polymers for a variety of Army applications," Huang explained. "Some of these applications may include medical treatment, chemical/biological decontamination, tissue scaffolding and environmental remediation."
"My specific focus was to develop chitosan hybrid materials for battlefield wound treatment," she added.
Future research will continue on Huang's project.
"The student symposium was a wonderful experience to gain practice in writing a research paper and presenting the work to a variety of audiences," Huang added. "I had a great time and my mentors were very supportive throughout the whole process."
Gabriella Rose from the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate (CISD) was awarded the silver prize of $300 and Daniel Smith from the Vehicle Technology Directorate (VTD) received the $200 bronze prize.
In the graduate student category, Daniel Cannon received top honors. Cannon is a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University and spent his summer working in the Autonomous Systems Division at the VTD. His project was titled Intuitive Interface for Master-Slave Controllers in Hyper-Redundant Manipulators.
"I was shocked and pleased when my name was announced," Cannon said. "I'm glad that my work impressed the judges and that they viewed my project as practical and important to the warfighter."
"I had a good summer and it went by fast," Cannon added. "I was working on my project before coming to ARL, but once I got here, its development accelerated and branched out."
The objective of Cannon's project was to design a new interface to tele-operate hyper redundant systems.
"I wanted to create a bridge to autonomous systems and give operators a complex level of control while carrying out complicated tasks with their robot," he said.
Cannon's goals were to decrease cognitive workload, enhance situational awareness, improve control for simple and dexterous tasks, reduce operator training time, and ultimately provide a robust design. He will continue work on his project by implementing time delay methods, improving interpolation methods, creating a portable format, and finally field testing the new master-slave interface versus traditional controllers.
"So many resources were available (at ARL) and that allowed me to push the limits of my project," Cannon concluded.
John Dykes from WMRD and Collin Becker from the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate were awarded the silver and bronze prizes respectively.
The winners and finalists alike agreed the symposium experience was a positive one that they will benefit from both academically and professionally, now and into the future.
Janea Lowery, an undergraduate finalist and student at Morgan State University, said she was grateful to her mentors for the experience they provided her this summer as well as the judging panelists for choosing her to present her project.
"ARL has been a great educational experience for me," Lowery said. "I started in June somewhat oblivious to what needed to be done to complete my experiment, but now I have the knowledge and confidence to conduct my experiment (at school) this fall."
Many students continue to work on projects after their summer internship ends. ARL encourages students to return to its laboratories during the school year. Students may also take their projects back to school with them to continue research at their campus facilities while keeping in touch with their ARL mentors.
Katherine Bagley, a symposium finalist and graduate student at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, said her ARL experience proved to be rewarding. Bagley is an industrial engineer and worked in the Human Research and Engineering Directorate's Cognitive Sciences Branch.
"As a first-year intern, I was very excited to be selected as a finalist for the symposium," she said. "I view it as a great chance to not only present research that I'm passionate about, but also a great opportunity to see what other students are doing within their various directorates."
Many interns, whether participating as a finalist or simply attending the event, agree that the best aspect of the symposium is learning about the science and technology taking place in other directorates. The students enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to see projects executed by their peers.
The symposium also provides an opportunity for students to see if their interest is sparked by the work carried out within a directorate that they are not familiar with. Students may then decide to participate in a future internship with a different group at the laboratory in order to experience a new realm of science and technology and further develop their knowledge.
"Through this short time, I received a great overview (of ARL) as well as insight to the role of a scientist and ARL culture," Bagley added. "During my stay here, I've met a phenomenal network of people, people that were always willing to offer advice, insight and their time (to help me with my work). This has truly been a summer well-spent and I look forward to continuing my newly formed relationship with ARL."