Blending EE with CS: an Interview with Daniela Rus

Interview with Daniela Rus continued

Q. How does your area of interest in distributed robotics, mobile computing, and programmable matter illustrate the blend of EE and CS and how does this blend reflect itself in the students who choose to work with you—grad students and UROPs, for example.

Daniela Rus: All aspects of my research concern embodied computation that interacts with the physical world and require simultaneous expertise in CS and EE. I find that our students are very excited about projects that concern building bodies and computation (brains) for these bodies, and I have no shortage of undergraduate students interested in being a UROP in my group, which is wonderful. Our students are extremely talented creative and motivated, and many of them are capable of publication-worthy work while ‘UROPing’. To give just one example, my UROP Kyle Gilpin who was an EE major developed, built, and demonstrated a new kind of computer as part of a one year MEng thesis. He designed and built these two inch cube-shaped computers capable of making and breaking connections and communicating to neighbors. He developed all the hardware, communication infrastructure, and algorithmic substrate for the system. He built 30 computers and showed some very efficient algorithms that enabled a connected block of 30 units to “sculpt” itself into a desired shape, for example a dog. This research demonstrated a new robot capability–self-assembly by dis-assembly and drew equally from Kyle’s CS and EE knowledge. This kind of work is enabled by the integrated and unique approach to education we offer in our department. We can see that our students appreciate our teaching philosophy by the enthusiastic response we get from students enrolled in 6.01, 6.02, 6.141J, and 6.142J.

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