Xiaobo Tan and Collaborators Awarded NSF Grant To Create "Evolution Park"

Xiaobo Tan and Collaborators Awarded NSF Grant To Create "Evolution Park"
Xiaobo Tan and Collaborators Awarded NSF Grant To Create "Evolution Park"

Philip McKinley, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, Xiaobo Tan, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Janette Boughman, Associate Professor of Zoology, have received an NSF grant for their project titled, Evolution Park: An Evolutionary Robotics Habitat for the Study of Crawling, Swimming and Flying Creatures. The Evolution Park expands an existing NSF testbed for applying evolutionary computation to the development and control of autonomous robotic systems. This infrastructure facilitates a form of biomutualism, where biology, engineering and computer science inform one another in synergistic and mutually beneficial ways. A 3D printer enables the realization of physical bodies (morphologies) that evolve concurrently with their control systems. The fabricated bodies are coupled with electroactive polymer materials to produce artificial organisms capable of locomotion without motors. Specially instrumented aquatic environments allow robotic fish to be used as stimuli to elicit behavioral responses in living fish under conditions manipulated by the experimenter. A collection of high-performance graphics workstations support fine-grained, interactive analysis of evolved behaviors in simulated robots, as well as analysis of video data captured by underwater cameras. In addition to its research mission, the testbed enables a wide variety of hands-on activities in education and outreach. An abstract of the award can be viewed at http://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1059373