OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

engineering and technology

One step at a time, researchers learning how humans walk

 

 

The study this story is based on is available online: http://bit.ly/1d1KZ3u

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Humans and some of our hominid ancestors such as Homo erectus have been walking for more than a million years, and researchers are close to figuring out how we do it.

It’s never been completely clear how human beings accomplish the routine, taken-for-granted miracle we call walking, let alone running. But findings published last month in the Journal of Experimental Biology outline a specific interaction between the ankle, knee, muscles and tendons that improve the understanding of a leg moving forward in a way that maximizes motion while using minimal amounts of energy.

The research could find some of its earliest applications in improved prosthetic limbs, said researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University. Later on, a more complete grasp of these principles could lead to walking or running robots that are far more agile and energy-efficient than anything that exists today.

“Human walking is extraordinarily complex and we still don’t understand completely how it works,” said Jonathan Hurst, an OSU professor of mechanical engineering and expert in legged locomotion in robots. There’s a real efficiency to it – walking is almost like passive falling. The robots existing today don’t walk at all like humans, they lack that efficiency of motion and agility.

“When we fully learn what the human leg is doing,” Hurst added, “we’ll be able to build robots that work much better.”

Researchers have long observed some type of high-power “push off” when the leg leaves the ground, but didn’t really understand how it worked. Now they believe they do. The study concluded there are two phases to this motion. The first is an “alleviation” phase in which the trailing leg is relieved of the burden of supporting the body mass.

Then in a “launching” phase the knee buckles, allowing the rapid release of stored elastic energy in the ankle tendons, like the triggering of a catapult.

“We calculated what muscles could do and found it insufficient, by far, for generating this powerful push off,” said Daniel Renjewski, a postdoctoral research associate in the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at OSU. “So we had to look for a power-amplifying mechanism.

“The coordination of knee and ankle is critical,” he said. “And contrary to what some other research has suggested, the catapult energy from the ankle is just being used to swing the leg, not add large amounts of energy to the forward motion.”

Walking robots don’t do this. Many of them use force to “swing” the leg forward from something resembling a hip point. It can be functional, but it’s neither energy-efficient nor agile. And for more widespread use of mobile robots, energy use is crucially important, the researchers said.

“We still have a long way to go before walking robots can move with as little energy as animals use,” Hurst said. “But this type of research will bring us closer to that.”

The research was supported by the German Research Foundation. The Dynamic Robotics Laboratory at OSU is supported by the Human Frontier Science Program, the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and has helped create some of the leading technology in the world for robots that can walk and run.

One model can run a nine-minute mile and step off a ledge, and others are even more advanced. Robots with the ability to walk and maneuver over uneven terrain could ultimately find applications in prosthetic limbs, an exo-skeleton to assist people with muscular weakness, or use in the military, disaster response or any dangerous situation.

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Jonathan Hurst, 541-737-7010

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How humans walk

Walking mechanics

Amber fossil reveals ancient reproduction in flowering plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A 100-million-year old piece of amber has been discovered which reveals the oldest evidence of sexual reproduction in a flowering plant – a cluster of 18 tiny flowers from the Cretaceous Period – with one of them in the process of making some new seeds for the next generation.

The perfectly-preserved scene, in a plant now extinct, is part of a portrait created in the mid-Cretaceous when flowering plants were changing the face of the Earth forever, adding beauty, biodiversity and food. It appears identical to the reproduction process that “angiosperms,” or flowering plants still use today.

Researchers from Oregon State University and Germany published their findings on the fossils in the Journal of the Botanical Institute of Texas.

The flowers themselves are in remarkable condition, as are many such plants and insects preserved for all time in amber. The flowing tree sap covered the specimens and then began the long process of turning into a fossilized, semi-precious gem. The flower cluster is one of the most complete ever found in amber and appeared at a time when many of the flowering plants were still quite small.

Even more remarkable is the microscopic image of pollen tubes growing out of two grains of pollen and penetrating the flower’s stigma, the receptive part of the female reproductive system. This sets the stage for fertilization of the egg and would begin the process of seed formation – had the reproductive act been completed.

“In Cretaceous flowers we’ve never before seen a fossil that shows the pollen tube actually entering the stigma,” said George Poinar, Jr., a professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the OSU College of Science. “This is the beauty of amber fossils. They are preserved so rapidly after entering the resin that structures such as pollen grains and tubes can be detected with a microscope.”

The pollen of these flowers appeared to be sticky, Poinar said, suggesting it was carried by a pollinating insect, and adding further insights into the biodiversity and biology of life in this distant era. At that time much of the plant life was composed of conifers, ferns, mosses, and cycads.  During the Cretaceous, new lineages of mammals and birds were beginning to appear, along with the flowering plants. But dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.

“The evolution of flowering plants caused an enormous change in the biodiversity of life on Earth, especially in the tropics and subtropics,” Poinar said.

“New associations between these small flowering plants and various types of insects and other animal life resulted in the successful distribution and evolution of these plants through most of the world today,” he said. “It’s interesting that the mechanisms for reproduction that are still with us today had already been established some 100 million years ago.”

The fossils were discovered from amber mines in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, previously known as Burma. The newly-described genus and species of flower was named Micropetasos burmensis.

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George Poinar, 541-752-0917

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Ancient flowers

Ancient flower


Pollen tubes

Pollen tubes

OSU spinoff company NuScale to receive up to $226 million to advance nuclear energy

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A promising new form of nuclear power that evolved in part from research more than a decade ago at Oregon State University today received a significant boost: up to $226 million in funding to NuScale Power from the United States Department of Energy.

NuScale began as a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes, and since has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

This technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale has continued to grow and create jobs in Oregon, and is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

In the early 2000s at OSU, Reyes envisioned a nuclear power reactor that could be manufactured in a factory, be transported to wherever it was needed, grouped as necessary to provide the desired amount of power, and provide another option for nuclear energy. It also would incorporate “passive safety” concepts studied at OSU in the 1990s that are already being used in nuclear power plant construction around the world. The design allows the reactor to shut down automatically, if necessary, using natural forces including gravity and convection.

The Department of Energy announcement represents a milestone in OSU’s increasing commitment to university and business partnerships and its goals of using academic research discoveries to promote new industries, jobs, economic growth, environmental protection and public health.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

The Oregon State University Advantage connects business with faculty expertise, student talent and world-class facilities to provide research solutions and help bring ideas to market. This effort is in partnership with the Oregon State University Foundation.

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

 

“Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

U.S. Rep. Peter De Fazio added, “Congratulations to NuScale and Oregon State University. This is a big win for the local economy.” 

“This is an exciting time for us, as our students and faculty get incredibly valuable real-world experience in taking an idea through the startup and commercialization process,” said Kathryn Higley, professor and head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiation Health Physics. “We continue to work with NuScale as it goes through its design certification process, and we are particularly proud of Jose Reyes for his vision, enthusiasm and unwavering commitment to this concept.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies.

“The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

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Rick Spinrad, 541-737-0662 or 541-220-1915 (cell)

Cascadia Lifelines Program begun to aid earthquake preparation

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University and eight partners from government and private industry this month began studies for the Cascadia Lifelines Program, a research initiative to help improve critical infrastructure performance during an anticipated major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

The program, coordinated by the OSU School of Civil and Construction Engineering, will immediately begin five research projects with $1.5 million contributed by the partners. Recent work such as the Oregon Resilience Plan has helped to define the potential problems, experts say, and this new initiative will begin to address them in work that may take 50 years or more to implement.

Looming in Oregon’s future is a massive earthquake of about magnitude 9.0, which could significantly damage Pacific Northwest roads, bridges, buildings, sewers, gas and water lines, electrical system and much more.

“Compared to the level of earthquake preparedness even in California and Washington, it’s clear that Oregon is bringing up the rear,” said Scott Ashford, director of the new program. He is the Kearney Professor of Engineering in the OSU College of Engineering, and an international expert who has studied the impact of subduction zone earthquakes in much of the Pacific Rim – including Japan’s major disaster of March, 2011.

“Most of Oregon’s buildings, roads, bridges and infrastructure were built at a time when it was believed the state was not subject to major earthquakes,” Ashford said. “Because of that we’re going to face serious levels of destruction. But with programs like this and the commitment of our partners, there’s a great deal we can do to proactively prepare for this disaster, and get our lifelines back up and running after the event.”

Those “lifelines,” Ashford said, are the key not just to saving lives and minimizing damage, but aiding in recovery of the region following a disaster that scientists say is a near certainty. The list of participating partners reflects agencies and companies that understand the challenges they will face, Ashford said.

The partners include the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, Northwest Natural Gas, the Bonneville Power Administration, Port of Portland, Portland Water Bureau, Eugene Water and Electric Board, and Tualatin Valley Water District.

“When I studied areas that had been hard-hit by earthquakes in Chile, New Zealand and Japan, it became apparent that money spent to prepare for and minimize damage from the earthquake was hugely cost-effective,” Ashford said. “One utility company in New Zealand said they saved about $10 for every $1 they had spent in retrofitting and rebuilding their infrastructure.

“This impressed upon me that we do not have to just wait for the earthquake to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do to prepare for it right now that will make a difference. And we have the expertise right here at OSU – in engineering, business, earth sciences, health – to get these programs up and running.”

The initial subjects OSU researchers will focus on in the new program include:

  • Studies of soil liquefaction, which can greatly reduce the strength of soils and lead to road, bridge, building and other critical infrastructure facility failure;
  • Cost effective improvements that could be done to existing and older infrastructure;
  • Evacuation routes for Oregonians to use following a major earthquake;
  • Tools to plan for hazards and anticipate risks;
  • Where and how earthquakes could trigger landslides in Oregon.

Ashford said the consortium will seek additional federal support for the needed research, and also more partners both in government and private industry.

OSU will also continue its collaboration with PEER, the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, which includes work by the leading academic institutions in this field on the West Coast. The Cascadia Lifelines Program will add an emphasis on subduction zone earthquakes, which can behave quite differently and produce shaking that lasts for minutes, instead of the type of strike-slip quakes most common in California that last for tens of seconds. And the utility lifelines work will be focused on the specific challenges facing Oregon.

Aside from some of the infrastructure not being built to withstand major earthquakes, Oregon and the Willamette Valley may face particular risks from liquefaction, in which soil can develop the consistency of “pea soup” and lose much of its strength. Liquefaction helped cause much of the damage in Japan, which has still not recovered from the destruction more than two years after the event.

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Scott Ashford, 541-737-4934

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Sinking structures

Sinking structures


Video of liquefaction in Japan:

http://bit.ly/dK6mfa

 

Breakthrough in study of aluminum should yield new technological advances

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon today announced a scientific advance that has eluded researchers for more than 100 years – a platform to study and fully understand the aqueous chemistry of aluminum, one of the world’s most important metals.

The findings, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, should open the door to significant advances in electronics and many other fields, ranging from manufacturing to construction, agriculture and drinking water treatment.

Aluminum, in solution with water, affects the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and anthrosphere, the scientists said in their report. It may be second only to iron in its importance to human civilization. But for a century or more, and despite the multitude of products based on it, there has been no effective way to explore the enormous variety and complexity of compounds that aluminum forms in water.

Now there is.

“This integrated platform to study aqueous aluminum is a major scientific advance,” said Douglas Keszler, a distinguished professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, and director of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry.

“Research that can be done with the new platform should have important technological implications,” Keszler said. “Now we can understand aqueous aluminum clusters, see what’s there, how the atomic structure is arranged.”

Chong Fang, an assistant professor of chemistry in the OSU College of Science, called the platform “a powerful new toolset.” It’s a way to synthesize aqueous aluminum clusters in a controlled way; analyze them with new laser techniques; and use computational chemistry to interpret the results. It’s simple and easy to use, and may be expanded to do research on other metal atoms.

“A diverse team of scientists came together to solve an important problem and open new research opportunities,” said Paul Cheong, also an OSU assistant professor of chemistry.

The fundamental importance of aluminum to life and modern civilization helps explain the significance of the advance, researchers say. It’s the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, but almost never is found in its natural state. The deposition and migration of aluminum as a mineral ore is controlled by its aqueous chemistry. It’s found in all drinking water and used worldwide for water treatment. Aqueous aluminum plays significant roles in soil chemistry and plant growth.

Aluminum is ubiquitous in cooking, eating utensils, food packaging, construction, and the automotive and aircraft industries. It’s almost 100 percent recyclable, but in commercial use is a fairly modern metal. Before electrolytic processes were developed in the late 1800s to produce it inexpensively, it was once as costly as silver.

Now, aluminum is increasingly important in electronics, particularly as a “green” component that’s cheap, widely available and environmentally benign.

Besides developing the new platform, this study also discovered one behavior for aluminum in water that had not been previously observed. This is a “flat cluster” of one form of aluminum oxide that’s relevant to large scale productions of thin films and nanoparticles, and may find applications in transistors, solar energy cells, corrosion protection, catalytic converters and other uses.

Ultimately, researchers say they expect new technologies, “green” products, lowered equipment costs, and aluminum applications that work better, cost less and have high performance.

The research was made possible, in part, by collaboration between chemists at OSU and the University of Oregon, through the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. This is a collaboration of six research universities, which is sponsored and funded by the National Science Foundation.

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Douglas Keszler, 541-737-6736

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Aluminum in manufacturing

Aluminum manufacturing

Business incubator gears up for next cohort, welcomes five new advisory board members

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator seeks creators of new business concepts to be part of their fall cohort in the Iterate program, where startup experts help budding entrepreneurs evaluate and refine their ideas.

The Iterate application period coincides with the Accelerator’s naming five new members to its strategic advisory board, including Maggie Finnerty, executive director of the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, and former Oregon Republican Party chairman Allen Alley.

The one-month Iterate program kicks off Oct. 24.

“Being on the strategic advisory board is a great opportunity to work with the state’s leading research university and be part of the bridge to industry,” said Alley. “Oregon’s future depends on harnessing our world-class innovations and bringing them to global markets.”

In its four years of existence, the Accelerator has advised more than 70 program graduates who have generated more than $4.5 million in revenue and gained more than $2.3 million in equity investments, $10 million in grants, and $500,000 in loans or other financing. 

Accelerator activities have created more than 50 full-time-equivalent jobs. The Accelerator has engaged with nearly 400 entrepreneurs and startups in the region and interacted with more than 4,500 students and 130 volunteers.

Additional new members of the 15-person board are Julianne Brands of the Oregon Angel Fund; Rita Hansen, chief executive officer of OSU spinout OnBoard Dynamics; and Jennifer Brown-Dennis, dean of the OSU Graduate School.

Brian Wall, OSU’s assistant vice president for research, commercialization and industry partnering, said the board demonstrates the university’s commitment to diversity in leadership.

“Adding distinguished advisory board members such as Maggie, Julianne, Rita, Jennifer and Allen helps us continue the economic progress achieved by Accelerator companies and continues to evolve Oregon State into a 21st century land grant institution,” he said.

The Accelerator, under the direction of Mark Lieberman and Karl Mundorff, helps nascent startups develop and commercialize high-growth, innovative technologies. Through three programs – Iterate, Accelerate and Launch – the Accelerator helps OSU faculty, students, staff and the broader university community advance ideas and conduct research into products and services, guiding entrepreneurs through all phases of the commercialization process.

“Iterate is the top of our funnel,” Lieberman said. “It’s a methodology that anyone can use to understand what entrepreneurial thinking is about and to help answer the question of what comes next.”

“The main thing we teach in Iterate is how to evaluate business ideas,” Mundorff added. “The program helps you figure out whether an idea is worth your time. And almost every team iterates to some variant of their initial idea.”

The Accelerator is part of Oregon State University Advantage, which connects business people to university resources, and it is also affiliated with RAIN, the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network; RAIN is an Oregon consortium of government, higher education and the business community.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

NSF grant bolsters OSU’s efforts in robotics, artificial intelligence, marine studies

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The National Science Foundation has awarded $1 million to five Oregon State University researchers to study the operation of autonomous marine vehicles.

The grant further enlarges the university’s robotics footprint three months after the OSU College of Engineering established the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute to advance the theory, design, development and deployment of robots and intelligent systems able to collaborate seamlessly with people.

It also broadens the reach of the OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, a university-wide effort to increase understanding of coastal and ocean systems and promote sustainability on key issues including climate change, food security and safety, natural hazards, renewable energy production and natural resources management.

Geoff Hollinger and Julie A. Adams of the College of Engineering and Jack Barth, Jonathan Nash and Kipp Shearman of the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences are the principal investigators on the $1 million grant.

Hollinger, the lead PI, is a roboticist, and Adams, an associate director of the CoRIS Institute, is a computer scientist. Barth, the executive director of the Marine Studies Initiative, Nash and Shearman are physical oceanographers who specialize in making observations at sea using autonomous vehicles.

The project builds on cross-campus collaborations that bring engineers and ocean scientists together to produce innovations in OSU-developed ocean-sensing technologies such as ROSS – the robotic oceanographer surface sampler – and advanced underwater glider operations.

The project seeks to increase vehicles’ “neglect tolerance” – the ability to withstand long periods with little to no communication from a human technician – by improving their autonomy capabilities.

“Underwater exploration using unmanned robotic vehicles has opened up vast new ways of understanding the world’s oceans,” Hollinger said. “However, in the current state of practice, human operators must provide specific waypoints for the vehicles to follow, which is both time consuming and inflexible. The research in this project will develop autonomy capabilities that facilitate on-vehicle intelligence, leading to longer duration deployments of unmanned underwater and surface vehicles as well as improving the oceanographic data collected and reducing the cost of these deployments.”

The $1 million NSF grant comes on the heels of the $3.6 million the College of Engineering received in robotics-related funding in fiscal year 2017, the nearly $2 million it received the previous year and a recent $6.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence-based systems like autonomous vehicles and robots more trustworthy.

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Steve Lundeberg, 541-737-4039

Researchers throughout Northwest look to benefit from OSU’s new spectroscopy instrument

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has acquired a high-tech research instrument that will make its surface characterization laboratory a major resource for scientists throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The $1.6 million instrument, an ambient-pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy system, or AP-XPS, is the first instrument of its kind in the United States to incorporate an ambient-pressure scanning tunneling microscope, or AP-STM, which enables imaging of surfaces with atomic resolution.

XPS uses X-rays to determine the composition, chemical states and electronic states of surfaces and interfaces from materials or thin-film structures. The technique is vital to the development of new and better materials for semiconductors, solar energy, batteries, catalysis and various environmental applications.

Combining AP-XPS and AP-STM in the same system allows researchers to measure chemical and structural changes of materials under identical conditions.

“Our system was custom designed to support a broad range of research that we’re doing here at OSU,” said chemical engineering professor Greg Herman, principal investigator on the grant that secured funding for the instrument. “This unique combination of capabilities will help us advance the science and technology of new materials, interfaces and devices.”

Oregon State’s new AP-XPS/STM, acquired in part through a major research instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation, will serve as part of a user facility within the NSF’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program.

In addition to supporting the work of Oregon State researchers in engineering, chemistry and physics, the AP-XPS/STM system will be made available to researchers from other universities, national laboratories and private industry, who will be able to book time on the instrument to perform their own studies.

“Our new system can operate over a broad range of temperatures and pressures, including conditions similar to those on Earth,” said Herman. “This enables us to extrapolate real-world conditions much more accurately than conventional XPS, which operates under ultrahigh vacuum, similar to conditions on the moon.”   

A workshop detailing the capabilities of the AP-XPS system, including a lab tour, will take place on Sept. 6 to coincide with the 2017 Symposium of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the American Vacuum Society, being hosted at Oregon State. More information is available at cbee.oregonstate.edu/PNWAVS-2017.

“This new system brings unique research capabilities and will play a key role in advancing the College of Engineering’s strategic research areas of clean energy, advanced manufacturing and materials science,” said assistant professor Líney Árnadóttir, the symposium’s chair.

Matching funds for the system were provided by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, Oregon BEST and Oregon State University. 

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Keith Hautala, 541-737-1478

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Research aims to make artificial intelligence explain itself

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Eight computer science professors in Oregon State University’s College of Engineering have received a $6.5 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make artificial-intelligence-based systems like autonomous vehicles and robots more trustworthy.

The success of the deep neural networks branch of artificial intelligence has enabled significant advances in autonomous systems that can perceive, learn, decide and act on their own.

The problem is that the neural networks function as a black box. Instead of humans explicitly coding system behavior using traditional programming, in deep learning the computer program learns on its own from many examples. Potential dangers arise from depending on a system that not even the system developers fully understand.

The four-year grant from DARPA will support the development of a paradigm to look inside that black box, by getting the program to explain to humans how decisions were reached.

“Ultimately, we want these explanations to be very natural – translating these deep network decisions into sentences and visualizations,” said Alan Fern, principal investigator for the grant and associate director of the College of Engineering’s recently established Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute.

Developing such a system that communicates well with humans requires expertise in a number of research fields. In addition to having researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the team includes experts in computer vision, human-computer interaction, natural language processing, and programming languages.

To begin developing the system, the researchers will use real-time strategy games, like StarCraft, to train artificial-intelligence “players” that will explain their decisions to humans. StarCraft is a staple of competitive electronic gaming.

Later stages of the project will move on to applications provided by DARPA that may include robotics and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Fern said the research is crucial to the advancement of autonomous and semi-autonomous intelligent systems.

“Nobody is going to use these emerging technologies for critical applications until we are able to build some level of trust, and having an explanation capability is one important way of building trust,” he said.

The researchers from Oregon State were selected by DARPA for funding under the highly competitive Explainable Artificial Intelligence program. Other major universities chosen include Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Texas and University of California, Berkeley.

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Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098

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Writer Eileen Pollack to speak at Oregon State University

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Writer Eileen Pollack, whose nonfiction book, “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys’ Club,” explores the challenges facing women in the sciences, will visit Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus Oct. 21 for a pair of talks about her fiction and nonfiction work.

Pollack will speak about “The Facts Behind the Fiction: Research and Creative Writing” at 4 p.m. in the Journey Room in the Memorial Union, 2501 S.W. Jefferson Way.

Later that evening, she will speak about her 2015 book, “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys’ Club.” The talk begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley Library Rotunda, 201 S.W. Waldo Place. Both talks are free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow the evening event. 

“The Only Woman in the Room” explores the social, interpersonal and institutional barriers confronting women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields. The book is based on Pollack’s own experience and six years of interviews with her former teachers and classmates, as well as dozens of other women who had dropped out before completing their degrees in science or found their careers less rewarding than they had hoped.

Pollack’s latest novel, “A Perfect Life,” was published in May. The book explores the moral complexities of scientific discovery and the sustaining nature of love in a novel about a young researcher at MIT who is obsessed with finding the genetic marker to a disease that threatens her family and future.

Her other books include “Breaking and Entering,” a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection, and “Paradise, New York.” Her work has appeared in “Best American Essays and “Best American Short Stories.”

Pollack is a professor on the faculty of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Manhattan and Ann Arbor, Michigan. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Yale University and later earned a master of fine arts from the University of Iowa.

Pollack’s visit is part of the 2016-17 Creative Writing Program’s Visiting Writers Series and SPARK, a yearlong series of events celebrating the convergence of the arts and science.

Sponsors for this event include the OSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women; the College of Liberal Arts; the School of Writing, Literature, and Film; OSU Libraries and Press; Oregon State ADVANCE, a National Science Foundation grant-funded program aimed at increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers; Kathy Brisker and Tim Steele; and Grass Roots Books and Music.

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Susan Rodgers, 541-737-1658, susan.rodgers@oregonstate.edu

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Eileen Pollack

Eileen Pollack

The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room

A Perfect Life

A Perfect Life