Collaborative research on the rise thanks to Research Impact Areas

Purdue Polytechnic Research Impact Areas

Interdisciplinary research in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute uses a socio-technical approach to pursue one goal from many angles and create significant impact on global grand challenges. A unique, collaborative research style within Purdue Polytechnic is on the rise, with Research Impact Areas leading the way. From automation and process control, innovative training and learning, and safety and security in the cyber and physical worlds, integrated Polytechnic research teams focus on three key areas:

  • Realizing the Digital Enterprise
  • Future Work and Learning
  • Holistic Safety and Security

Continue reading to learn about innovative research projects under way within each Research Impact Area.

Realizing the Digital Enterprise

Richard Voyles, professor of electrical and computer engineering technology and head of the Collaborative Robotics Lab, and Bedrich Benes, professor of computer graphics technology, are collaborating with Karthik Ramani, the Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and six other faculty members on a project to create 3D-printed objects infused with sensing, computation and actuation abilities. The research could lead to the creation of a “smart product printer” that combines the printing of a structure with the printing of electronics, sensing and other functions.

Yingjie “Victor” Chen, associate professor of computer graphics technology, and his research team are developing a new technique that could make visualization of big spatial data sets easier and more concise. Conventional techniques like heat maps, which represent data graphically as a matrix of colors, can make it nearly impossible to categorize and compare data when many different types of objects are involved, such as planning resources for a city or tracking enemy locations for military strategy. The Purdue visualization technique uses a specially designed algorithm that incorporates information about thickness, density and boundaries tied to data points. Objects can be grouped by type or time, allowing users to see changes in distributions over time. The technique could be used to study nature phenomena, track political affiliations within a geographic region and many other areas where data can help in comparison and future planning.

Gozdem Kilaz, assistant professor of engineering technology and director of Purdue’s Fuel Laboratory of Renewable Energy (FLORE), is leading efforts to optimize a new chemical conversion process for the production of aviation biofuel from plastic waste. The FLORE team is cataloging specific properties of polyolefin waste products and working to ensure the correlations between the products’ chemistry and properties are more thoroughly understood. Improved understanding of the waste products’ chemical properties could help ready them for conversion in into jet fuel.

Purdue Polytechnic’s commitment to interdisciplinary research in specific Research Impact Areas has resulted in significant year-over-year growth in funded collaborative research for the college.Future Work and Learning

Adaptive comparative judgment (ACJ), a relatively new assessment approach designed for assessing solutions to open-ended problems, has demonstrated potential for improving reliability in the evaluation of student design work in engineering and technology design settings. Scott Bartholomew, assistant professor of technology leadership and innovation, and Esteban Garcia-Bravo, assistant professor of computer graphics technology, are researching how to incorporate ACJ in graphic design education, determining the best time to incorporate it in the learning progression.

Alejandra Magana, professor of computer and information technology, is researching the creation of virtual spaces in which learners can be immersed together and nurtured into learning via wearable technology such as glasses, haptics and sensors. These virtual spaces would become authentic environments in which to observe, feel, simulate and experiment under the guidance of a personal skilled tutor. Magana hopes the research will lead to inclusive and personalized adaptive learning environments at scale.

Holistic Safety and Security

An all-in-one cybersecurity toolkit developed by Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, assistant professor of computer and information technology, John Springer and Baijian Yang, associate professors of computer and information technology, Marcus Rogers, professor of computer and information technology, and others is helping detectives dust for digital fingerprints. The Toolkit for Selective Analysis & Reconstruction of Files (FileTSAR) combines the top open source investigative tools used by digital forensic law enforcement teams at the local, state, national and global levels. It captures data flows and provides a mechanism to selectively reconstruct multiple data types, including documents, images, email and VoIP sessions for large-scale computer networks. FileTSAR is available free to law enforcement.

A Purdue invention is improving the efficiency and maneuverability of a firefighting robot, and the field-tested design could make firefighters’ jobs less dangerous, according to Eric Dietz, professor of computer and information technology and director of the Purdue Homeland Security Institute. Dietz and his research team developed a new automatic T-valve system for firefighting robots that can remove water from the fire hose whenever the robots move to a new location, as they can maneuver more quickly when pulling empty fire hoses. The invention improves firefighters’ overall safety and efficiency in and around burning structures.

This article first appeared in Innovation Magazine, published annually by Purdue Polytechnic for alumni and friends.

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