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Dr. David Mathias was recently awarded a prestigious NSF Research Grant for his proposal entitled Modeling Intensity and Duration Variations in Multi-agent Systems. Swarm-based systems consist of large groups or swarms of agents that have a common goal and work collectively to solve the tasks associated with that goal. In general, each agent in a swarm is capable of performing multiple, perhaps all, of the tasks required of the swarm. Thus, the division of labor, selecting which agents perform which tasks, is neither predetermined nor obvious. A self-organizing swarm is one in which coordination of the activities of agents in the swarm is decentralized. This decentralized task allocation problem is the primary focus of the work outlined here.
Complex multi-agent swarms that must achieve critical tasks are common in nature. For example, bee hives are highly sensitive to temperature variation. Members of the hive act collectively to maintain the hive's temperature. When the temperature drops, bees intentionally shiver to generate heat. When the temperature rises, bees flap their wings to move air and cool the hive. Their actions are decentralized: each individual bee decides if and when to shiver or flap. If members of the hive were uniform in their decisions, the hive temperature would oscillate over time. This is avoided due to variation in the bees' behaviors under the same conditions. Some bees will, for example, begin shivering or flapping before others.
This research will explore two sources of inter-agent variation in artificial swarms: duration of activity and intensity of activity. While variation in activation thresholds models the times at which agents begin working on a task, variability in duration models how long an agent works on a task. This might take the form of a fixed length of time for each member to participate, or perhaps a deactivation threshold, mirroring the activation threshold. Variation in duration among agents desynchronizes the agents' decision making schedule such that agents make decisions about whether or not to change tasks at different points in time. This desynchronization reduces the likelihood of over-response by the swarm and is expected to increase the stability of the swarm. Funding spans August 2019 to July 2020.
Dr. Elliott Forbes participated in a panel discussion entitled Including Embedded Systems in CS: Why? When? and How? as part of SIGCSE 2019. As noted on the SIGCSE web site, The SIGCSE Technical Symposium is the largest computing education conference worldwide organized by ACM SIGCSE. It attracts over 1,500 researchers, educators, and others interested in improving computing education in K-12 and higher education.
Dr. Forbes served as a domain expert in both Computer Engineering and Compter Science Education where he presented the way in which the UWL CS department developed its well received embedded systems emphasis. Dr. Forbres argued that within the last 10-15 years the barriers to entry in embedded systems development have dramatically decreased. Development platforms of the past were often vendor-locked, required expensive hardware and software developer kits (SDKs), were difficult to use, and lacked a community that was accessible to newcomers. Now, however, the open-source hardware and software communities have rallied, largely solving these issues. The CS department recognized the new opportunities afforded by these lowered barriers and developed a hands-on curriculum revolving around the Internet of Things (IoT).
The Computer Science Department recently received approval to offer an Embedded Systems Emphasis within the CS Major. The emphasis includes the three course sequence CS 272 (Digital Circuit Design for Microcontrollers I), CS 372 (Digital Circuit Design for Microcontrollers II) and CS 472 (Internet of Things). Compensating changes to the CS Major requirements keep total credits at 45, the same as the CS Major. Full details will appear in the online catalog this summer.
Shelmina Abji, UWL Computer Science graduate from 1985, received the Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumnus Award on Sept 23rd, 2017. After graduation from UWL, Shelmina went to work for ETA Systems, a super-computer manufacturer, before moving to IBM and eventually becoming Vice President of the IBM Global Microsoft Alliance. The department is very proud to have Shelmina as one of our graduates.
At the 52nd UWL International Banquet, Prof. Mao Zheng received the W. Carl Wimberly Founders Award for International Partnerships. Prof. Zheng joined the Computer Science Department in 2002 and has been very active in promoting international partnerships.