SD Mines Receives $300,000 NSF Grant for Improving Intelligent Control

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The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded a $312,928 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project to improve intelligent control of sensitive systems such as an airplane’s autopilot and a power plant’s autonomous temperature controller, possibly preventing major catastrophes. SD Mines research will produce performance guarantees for autonomous systems where errors can have catastrophic consequences, such as automatic machines controlling the flow of anesthesia during surgery and robotic manipulators whose miscalculations can destroy products or injure employees in a manufacturing setting.

Intelligent control doesn't require a perfect model of a process or system to automate with precision, offering a superior performance compared to other methods even in the face of uncertainties prevalent in real-world problems.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology has been awarded a $312,928 grant from the National Science Foundation for a project to improve intelligent control of sensitive systems such as an airplane’s autopilot and a power plant’s autonomous temperature controller, possibly preventing major catastrophes.

SD Mines research will produce performance guarantees for autonomous systems where errors can have catastrophic consequences. Examples include automatic machines controlling the flow of anesthesia during surgery and robotic manipulators whose miscalculations can destroy products or injure employees in a manufacturing setting.

Intelligent control is a human-inspired control method that achieves automation by emulating how people learn: act, look at the outcomes and then modify actions to improve outcomes. Intelligent control applies this method to solve challenging problems in aerospace vehicles, autonomous robots, power generators and grids, mechanical systems, electrical networks, chemical processes, bioengineering applications and economics.

“Since intelligent control does not require a perfect model of a process or system to automate with precision – just as people do not require a perfect model to operate machinery – it offers a superior performance compared to other methods even in the face of uncertainties prevalent in real-world problems,” said Ali Heydari, Ph.D., principal investigator and assistant professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Despite the overall success of intelligent control, a shortcoming is that these sensitive systems require ironclad guarantees of suitable performance which are not typically provided using this class of controllers, said Heydari, whose research will mitigate this shortcoming by developing performance guarantees for delicate systems.

The NSF award for his project entitled, “Contributing to the Mathematical Rigor of Approximate Dynamic Programming,” will allow Heydari to hire three graduate and undergraduate students to assist in the research over a three-year period.

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About SD Mines
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,843 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate is 98 percent, with an average early-career salary for graduates of $65,600, according to the 2014-2015 PayScale report. Find us online at http://www.sdsmt.edu, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/sdsmt and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sdsmt.

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