Friday, December 4, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. Kostas Bekris

Optimal Reciprocal Collision Avoidance (ORCA) for Multi-Agent Navigation

Jur Van Den Berg, Ph.D..
Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California at Berkeley

We present a formal approach to reciprocal n-body collision avoidance, where multiple mobile robots need to avoid collisions with each other while moving in a common workspace. In our formulation, each robot acts fully independently, and does not communicate with other robots. Based on the definition of velocity obstacles, we derive sufficient conditions for collision-free motion by reducing the problem to solving a low-dimensional linear program. We test our approach on several dense and complex simulation scenarios involving thousands of robots and compute collision-free actions for all of them in only a few milliseconds. To the best of our knowledge, this method is the first that can guarantee local collision-free motion for a large number of robots in a cluttered workspace.


Jur van den Berg received his M.S. degree from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and his Ph.D.. degree from Utrecht University, The Netherlands, in 2003 and 2007, respectively. From 2007 to 2009 he was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently he is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include motion and path planning, navigation of robots and virtual characters, and medical robotics. Jur has 28 publications in some of the top robotics journals and conferences.

Friday, November 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. George Bebis

Field Testing of Utility Robots for Lunar Surface Operations

Terry Fong, Ph.D.
NASA Ames Research Center

For the past five years, NASA has been working to return humans to the Moon. In contrast to Apollo, two key objectives of the current exploration program are to establish surface infrastructure and sustained human presence. This will enable comprehensive, detailed exploration of the Moon. To achieve these objectives, robotic systems will be needed to perform work which cannot, or should not, be performed by humans. Some of this work will be performed in parallel with human activity, but many tasks can be done before and after humans are on the Moon. In this talk, I will summarize how the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group has been developing and field testing "utility robots" for lunar surface operations.


Dr. Terry Fong is the Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center. Prior to this, Dr. Fong was the deputy leader of the Virtual Reality and Active Interfaces Group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). From 1997 to 2000, he was Vice President of Development for Fourth Planet, Inc., a developer of real-time visualization software. Dr. Fong has published more than seventy papers in field robotics, human-robot interaction, and virtual reality user interfaces. Dr. Fong received his B.S. and M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and his Ph.D.. in Robotics from CMU.

Monday, November 02, 2009 at 1:00 PM

Host: Dr. Sergiu Dascalu

Career Opportunities in Software Engineering: Working at Microsoft and other Software Companies
James McCaffrey, Ph.D., Contributing Editor for MSDN Magazine

Students who major in computer science and related fields have many job opportunities. But what is it really like to work at a large software company like Microsoft or Amazon? What are the starting salaries? What kinds of questions are asked in hiring interviews? What are working conditions like? Dr. James McCaffrey will describe specific details of working at Microsoft and similar software companies and answer these questions and others, including: What types of jobs are there at Microsoft? How do you get an interview? What is a hiring interview like? Should you consider working as an agency contractor? Why will earning a Ph.D.. lower your salary by 20% -- or raise it by 100%? What are the two most important classes in school? Why do many academics who move to industry fail? Does your senior/capstone project class really matter? What are the pros and cons of working at a large company vs. a small company?


Dr. James McCaffrey works at Microsoft where he is a Contributing Editor for MSDN Magazine, Microsoft's technical journal, and Volt Information Sciences, Inc., a Fortune 1000 company, where he oversees a wide range of technical programs at Microsoft. James has a doctorate from the University of Southern California, an M.S. in Information Systems from Hawaii Pacific University, a B.A. in Applied Mathematics from California State University at Fullerton, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California at Irvine. McCaffrey worked as an associate professor of mathematics and computer science at several institutions before working at Microsoft where he was a lead software engineer and manager on several key Microsoft products including Internet Explorer and Internet Search. James is the author of many journal articles and books including ".NET Test Automation Recipes" (Apress 2006). McCaffrey's areas of research include combinatorial mathematics, data mining, software test automation, and biologically inspired meta-algorithms.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Host: Dr. Kostas Bekris

Formal Methods Explained
Kristin Rozier
NASA Ames Research Center

The Turing Award, considered to be the Nobel Prize in Computer Science, was awarded in 2008 to three giants of formal methods. Despite such recognition, many computer science students are unfamiliar with this discipline. Formal methods is one of the hottest areas of computer science, especially for the specification, design, and verification of hardware and software systems for safety and security. This talk will answer some of the more common and important questions about the discipline such as: what is formal verification and what makes it formal? What methods are used for formal verification and what kind of assurance do they provide? Why do we need formal methods given other, perhaps more mature, verification techniques such as testing, simulation, and fault-tolerance? Why we don't formally verify all systems? This talk will also present an example of model checking for a real-world system at NASA and point to areas of future research.


Kristin Yvonne Rozier is a Research Computer Scientist in the Intelligent Systems Division of NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Her primary research interests include model checking, automata theory, mathematical logic, automated reasoning, theory of computation, theorem proving, and algorithms. Currently, Kristin is contributing research to the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) Air Traffic Management project of the Airspace Systems Program, focusing on automated techniques for formal verification of safety critical software systems.
Kristin has been a member of the Robust Software Engineering (RSE) group at NASA Ames since September, 2008, a member of the NASA Formal Methods (NFM) research team since November, 2003, and a NASA employee since May, 2001. She earned a B.S. in 2000 and an M.S. in 2001 from The College of William and Mary, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Rice University under the advisement of Dr. Moshe Y. Vardi. Kristin is a member of Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE, the Society for Women Engineers (SWE), and Systers. She also serves on the Intelligent Systems Technical Committee (ISTC), and chairs the Professional Development & Outreach ISTC Subcommittee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She has received the American Helicopter Society's Howard Hughes Award and the NASA Group Achievement Award.

Friday, October 23, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Host: Dr. Murat Yuksel

End-to-End Contract Paths: Profit Maximization and Risk Management
Aparna Gupta, Ph.D.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

We consider an Internet Service Provider's (ISP) problem of providing end-to-end (e2e) services with bandwidth guarantees. We develop a spot-pricing framework for the strategic decisions of contracting for e2e bandwidth guaranteed services. A path-vector based approach is employed, in which an ISP uses its edge-to-edge (g2g) single-domain contracts and the vector of contracts purchased from neighboring ISPs as the building blocks to construct or participate in constructing an end-to-end contract path. Unlike the traditional approach of leaving the responsibility to the neighbor ISP after packet handed over, we consider a full e2e path-vector of g2g contracts before deciding which neighbor ISP the packets should be given to. In the Internet, the user demands and the network conditions vary dramatically with time. Hence, the provisioning of bandwidth guaranteed services is inherently risky. We formulate the path contracting strategy as a stochastic optimization problem with the objective of maximizing expected profit subject to risk constraints. We present time- invariant e2e contracting strategies that offers high expected profit at low risks. Simulation analysis is employed to evaluate the contracting and pricing framework under different network and market conditions.


Professor Aparna Gupta currently teaches Risk Management and Quantitative Finance in the Lally School of Management and Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She has developed and taught courses in financial engineering and quantitative methods in finance at the undergraduate and the graduate level at Rensselaer. Dr. Gupta also teaches short courses in Quantitative Finance in Lally School's international initiatives, specifically with industry and academic partners in India. She was a 2002 National Science Foundation New Century Scholar. Dr. Gupta's research interest is in addressing issues in risk management at the individual and the institutional level. Her work in individual risk management relates to financial decision support analysis, where her interest has been to seamlessly incorporate health-related risk into individual risk management framework. At the institutional level, her interest is in developing enterprise risk management strategies and analyzing incentives for risk management. Dr. Gupta conducts National Science Foundation funded research in financial innovation for risk management in technology-enabled services, specifically Internet and network-based services. She has published her work in quantitative finance and operations research journals, such as, Insurance: Mathematics and Economics; Journal of Computational Finance; Annals of Operations Research; Computational Optimization and Applications; and European Journal of Operational Research. Her technology-oriented publications appear in journals, such as, Computer Networks, International Journal of Info Tech and Decision Making, and International Journal of Product Development. She is currently the Chair of the INFORMS Financial Services Section. Dr. Gupta is also a member of IAFE, AFA, FMA, SIAM, and IEEE. Dr. Gupta got her doctorate from Stanford University in 2000; and did her B.Sc., M.Sc. in Mathematics from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India.

Friday, October 09, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. Sergiu Dascalu

Development of a modern Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) based upon REST and OGC Standards - RGIS 2.0
Karl Benedict, Ph.D.
University of New Mexico

Over the past 12 months the Earth Data Analysis Center has undertaken a complete rewrite of New Mexico's Geospatial Data Clearinghouse (the New Mexico Resource Geographic Information System [RGIS]). We have integrated into this development effort the many lessons and technical approaches learned over the past 8 years of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) development for multiple projects. This presentation will provide an overview of the architecture and open standards upon which RGIS 2.0 is based, and situate this work within the rapidly evolving network computing model for geographic information technologies. Among the topics discussed will be the Representation State Transfer (REST) model for development and use of web services, key Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards that enable geographic data and information exchange, and how these complementary sets of standards and models can be combined into scalable, manageable, high-performance geospatial data and information delivery systems.


Karl Benedict is the Director of the Earth Data Analysis Center at the University of New Mexico, and Research Assistant Professor in UNM's Department of Geography. In addition to his administrative duties, Karl continues to directly manage EDAC's Information Technology activities, and acts as information architect for many of EDAC's projects, a role that he played at EDAC for 8 years before becoming Director. This work has included design and implementation of data management and delivery systems for NASA's REASoN program (in support of public health decision making), New Mexico's development of a state node in the CDC's Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (in support of environmental health analysis and information delivery), and the cyberinfrastructure in support of 2 of New Mexico's NSF EPSCoR program projects (previously in support of hydrologic modeling and observation networks, now focused on hydro-climatology in Northern New Mexico). Karl currently chairs the Information Technology and Interoperability Committee for the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners, and is EDAC's representative to the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Since receiving his B.A. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley in 1986 Karl has pursued parallel research and applied science careers in Archaeology and Information Technology, with a common emphasis in data management, statistical analysis, and geographic information technologies across both disciplines. He received a M.A. and Ph.D.. in Anthropology (with an emphasis in Archaeology) from the University of New Mexico in 1996, and 2004 respectively.

Friday, October 02, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. Bobby Bryant

Chasing that Boat with the Neural Net: The Journey from It Can't be Done, to It Can't be Done without AI
Anya L. Getman, Ph.D.
University of Nevada, Reno

This colloquium presentation will give examples of where artificial intelligence was first rejected by industry, as either impractical or non-optimal, but later implemented as the only solution to meet government regulations and/or to surpass the competition. Implementations, designed for fast execution and reliable autocalibration, have predicted wind direction fifteen minutes into the future, allowed engines to meet On Board Diagnostics and emissions regulations, predicted poor combustion early enough to avoid it, drastically reduced prototype testing, allowed for scheduled repair of unplanned failures, and more accurately identified humans near moving equipment.


Anya L. Getman is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), which she joined in August 2009. She obtained a Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering, with Controls and AI (1995) from SUNY Watson School, Binghamton, NY, after receiving a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering (1988, 1992) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, NY, where she specialized in Manufacturing, Robotics, and Technical Communications, and Management.

Her primary research interests involve developing and implementing automation, sensor fusion, nonlinear modeling, controllers and user-friendly interfaces which isolate, track, diagnose, and predict incomplete or corrupted real-time signals in uncertain environments. Tools have included statistics, neural networks, fuzzy logic, genetic algorithms, deterministic chaos, wavelets, stochastic Petri nets, & frequency clustering. She has implemented solutions for semiconductors, military, plastics, aerospace, transportation, medical, energy, mining, infrastructure, and anyone with vulnerable software or hardware. She has organized numerous industry technical seminars, conference tracks and sessions, including web pages and t-shirts. She has even produced and narrated driving robot training films, and has volunteered for numerous robot related elementary and high school outreach programs. She can be contacted via email at anya@cse.unr.edu.

Friday, April 17, 2009 at 9:30 AM

IGT-UNR Engineering Symposium

Sponsored and organized by the IGT and CSE Department, UNR. The event will run from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Short tours of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center are included and lunch will be provided based on availability.

Emerging Technologies in Games and Gaming


  • 9:00 Registration opens
  • 9:30 Morning Tour - Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center
  • 10:00 Welcome
  • 10:10 Speaker #1: James Kosta
  • 11:15 Panel
  • 12:00 Luncheon MIKC 201 Rotunda
  • 12:45 Afternoon Tour - Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center
  • 1:15pm Speaker #2 Michael Mateas
  • 2:20pm Speaker #3 Donna Djordjevich
  • 3:20pm Event Ends

Iterative Game Design: Analyzing Usage as Part of the Production Cycle

James Kosta

Mr. Kosta is the CEO and founder of 3G Studios. Prior to entering the video game industry, he led product and software design projects at Disney, Dell, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). With video game development budgets growing exponentially, it is important to have a strong pre-production methodology and constant play testing. Mr. Kosta will teach techniques to help strengthen your processes while allowing you more creative freedom to polish and refine.

The Convergence of Casino Gaming and Computer Games: Potentials and Barriers

Join the following esteemed panelists for a lively and informational chat about how video and non-wagering game technologies are converging with traditional casino game development:

  • Larry Dailey, University of Nevada, Reno School of Journalism
  • Jim Hunt, Bally Technologies
  • James Kosta, 3G Studios
  • Tim Page, 5000ft
  • James Vasquez, IGT

Artificial Intelligence for Video Games

Michael Mateas

Mr. Mateas is a computer science department faculty member at UC Santa Cruz. He helped launch the game design program there, offering the first such degree in the UC system. His research in AI-based art and entertainment combines science, engineering and design into an integrated practice that pushes the boundaries of the conceivable and possible in games and other interactive art forms.

The "Ground Truth" First Responder Training Game

Donna Djordjevich

Ms. Djordjevich is a senior member of the technical staff under the Homeland Security and Defense Systems Center at Sandia National Laboratories. She holds a master's in Computer Science from USC. She currently leads the development of Sandia's "Ground Truth" training video game. This platform immerses first responders in an interactive gaming environment depicting high-risk, high-threat situations experienced from the comfort of their desk.

Friday, April 03, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. George Bebis

Adaptive Finite Element Methods: From PDE to Image Compression
Dr. Pavel Solin
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Nevada, Reno

Partial Differential Equations (PDE) are used to model many important processes in the nature such as atmospherical processes, flow of liquids, deformation of solid objects, geomagnetic and electromagnetic fields,transfer of heat, and others, but also to model developments on financial markets or the structure of molecules. These equations cannot be solved exactly and thus we approximate them numerically using high-performance computing. There are various numerical methods for PDE but a prominent role plays the Finite Element Method (FEM) which is used heavily in many engineering and scientific disciplines. We will give examples, mention some problems, limitations, and dogmas related to modern computational methods, and describe what we are doing in order to overcome them. We will also present the open source project Hermes (http://hpfem.org), a C++/Python library for rapid prototyping of high-fidelity solvers for PDE and PDE systems developed by our group. We will describe the goals of the project, how we want to achieve them, and what makes Hermes different from other PDE solvers and libraries.


Pavel Solin is an associate professor in applied mathematics at the University of Nevada, Reno. He received a Ph.D.. in Mathematical and Computer Modeling from the Charles University, Prague. He is the recipient of major awards for young scientists in the Czech Republic such as the Bolzano, Hlavka and Babuska awards, and the Presidential award for young scientists. Dr. Solin held postdoctoral positions at the Kepler University (Austria), UT Austin and Rice University. His group is developing novel high-fidelity computational methods for partial differential equations (PDE) and integral equations. Dr. Solin wrote three research monographs on these topics. He is the organizer of bi-annual international conferences "European Seminar on Coupled Problems (ESCO)" and "Finite Element Methods in Engineering and Science (FEMTEC)" that take place in Europe and the U.S., respectively. Dr. Solin serves on editorial boards of several international journals, leads an international research group, and has collaborators in numerous European countries and the U.S.

Monday, March 09, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Host: Dr. Kostas Bekris

On Robotics and Games

Dr. Sven Koenig
University of Southern California

In this talk, I will give an overview of ongoing research at USC on games and then talk about how research on artificial intelligence and robotics can inspire research on games. In particular, I will talk about our research on designing pinball games and on path planning for video games. In the context of any-angle path planning on grids, I will present Theta*, a variant of A* that propagates information along grid edges without constraining the paths to grid edges, and demonstrate that Theta* is simple, fast and finds short and realistic looking paths. In the context of moving-target search, I will present MT-Adaptive A*, an incremental variant of A* that updates the heuristics between searches, and demonstrate that MT-Adaptive A* is faster than isolated A* searches and, in many situations, also D* Lite, a state-of-the-art incremental variant of A*. This is joint work with K. Daniel, D. Earl, A. Felner, M. Likhachev, A. Nash, X. Sun, D. Wong and F. Zyda.


Sven Koenig is an associate professor in computer science at the University of Southern California. He is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award, an IBM Faculty Partnership Award, a Charles Lee Powell Foundation Award, a Raytheon Faculty Fellowship Award, and an ACM Recognition of Service Award, among others. He co-founded Robotics: Science and Systems, was conference co-chair of the 2002 Symposium on Abstraction, Reformulation, and Approximation, conference co-chair of the 2004 International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling, program co-chair of the 2005 International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems and program co-chair of the 2007 and2008 AAAI Nectar programs. Additional information about Sven can be found on his webpages: idm-lab.org.

Friday, March 06, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Host: Dr. George Bebis

An Introduction to Digital Forensics
Mr. Todd G. Shipley
President and CEO, Vere Software

This session is designed to impart to the participants the basics of digital evidence and its use in the legal system. This session will cover the
current status of digital forensic evidence from both the scientific and legal perspectives including a review of cybercrimes their background and how they affect the public and the law.


Todd G. Shipley, CFE, CFCE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vere Software. Mr. Shipley is a retired City of Reno Police Detective Sergeant, where he started and managed Nevadas first cybercrime unit. Prior to designing WebCase and starting Vere Software he was the Director of Systems Security and High Tech Crime Prevention Training for SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. He oversaw a national program that provided expert technical assistance and training to local, state, and federal justice agencies on successfully conducting high-technology computer crimes investigations. In this position he was also the manager of the National Criminal Justice Computer Laboratory and Training Center. Mr. Shipley has also achieved his Certified Forensics Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification from the International Association of Computer Forensic Specialists and is currently the 1st Vice-President of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association. He has authored works regarding cybercrime and speaks nationally on cybercrime investigations.

Friday, February 06, 2009 at 1:30 PM

Host: Dr. Kostas Bekris

Cyber-Physical Systems Initiative: NSF & Beyond
Dr. Michael S. Branicky, Program Director
National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation has a new initiative to support transformative research on the theory and applications of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). The term "cyber" refers to computation, communication, and control. The CPS challenge is motivated by systems in which cyber and physical elements are deeply integrated and networked at all scales. Research advances in CPS promise to transform our world by delivering autonomous cars and aircraft, smart buildings attached to an intelligent power grid, and new medical/assistive technologies. Delivering such systems in a way reliable enough to "bet our lives on" represents significant scientific and technical challenges. Solutions will enable applications like those above, as well as impact U.S. security and competitiveness in a number of critical sectors, including aerospace, automotive, chemical production, civil infrastructure, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, materials, and transportation. This talk will present the motivation and vision behind the NSF`s CPS initiative and summarize the program details. It will also suggest ways in which researchers can engage in the nascent CPS community, and how CPS research could impact its constitutive disciplines. Other opportunities at NSF will also be overviewed as time permits.


Dr. Branicky is currently a Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Computer & Network Systems (CNS) Division of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) Directorate. He is involved with the following NSF programs: Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Computer Systems Research (CSR; core research and CAREER awards), Computing Research Infrastructure (CRI), Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation (CDI), Expeditions in Computing (Expeditions), and Science and Technology Centers (STC).

Dr. Branicky is also Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. He received the B.S. (1987) and M.S. (1990) in Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics from Case and the Sc.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1995). He has held research positions at MIT's AI Lab, Wright-Patterson AFB, NASA Ames, Siemens Corporate Research (Munich), and Lund Institute of Technology's Dept. of Automatic Control. Research interests include hybrid systems, intelligent control, and learning, with applications to robotics, manufacturing, control over networks, and biology.