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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Carnegie Mellon RISS 2017

non-technical: suitable for any reader

I mentioned a while back that I was in the process of applying to a robotics internship with Carnegie Mellon University.
I'm delighted to announce that after a 5 month process I have been accepted! Thus, between June 1st and August 11th I will officially be a Robotics Institute Summer Scholar.

What is RISS?

Taken from the official page:
"Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute Summer Scholars (RISS) program is an eleven-week summer (June 1 to mid-August) undergraduate research program that immerses a diverse cohort of scholars in cutting-edge robotics projects that drive innovation and have real-world impact. Launched in 2006, RISS is among the best and most comprehensive robotics research programs for undergraduates in the world."

Basically, a group of 30-ish students are selected to work with fantastic researchers in their field of interest. I've received the opportunity to work under Professor Katia Sycara, and will be exploring research in swarm robotics.

Here is a summary video of students from a previous RISS event. 

The Application Process

I found the RISS program through online searching in October 2016. As outlined on the official site, the registration process would begin at the start of December. This means I should be applying BEFORE then.

As such I researched each professor that had been involved in RISS previously, and wanted to find a match that fit my interests. After a few weeks with countless hours of exploring I came across Professor Katia Sycara. Despite not actually being  listed as a previous mentor for the RISS program, her research was by far the most appealing to me.

I sent an email to her by the end of November and was greeted by a response within a day. She expressed interest in working with me, and I was ecstatic to hear this. I spent the month of December actively exploring her personal site, which included publications and projects.

At this point I knew that if I wanted to seriously get into this program, I needed to step it up and hone in on this research area. At the University of Manitoba, Professor John Anderson  is easily the leading researcher in multi-agent systems with years of work in team coordination for urban search and rescue. I met with him and expressed my interest in doing my first Coop term in the Autonomous Agents Laboratory.

Throughout January - April I established ARC ROS which gave me the opportunity to explore and expand my knowledge of multi-agent team coordination. I kept steady contact with Professor Sycara during this time, sending email updates tri-weekly with progress.

By the end of March I was notified of acceptance into the program, and sorted through the admission/visa process until early May.

Preparing for RISS

I had as Skype call with Sasanka Nagavalli, a PhD student from Dr. Sycara's lab that I will be working with this summer. He provided me with readings to do prior to attending this internship.

Throughout May, I am exploring the literature done by both Sasanka, and Professor Sycara. Initially I am skimming through roughly 15-20 of their most recent co-authored papers. After doing a single pass through them, I will select the top 5-6 papers and do a second pass through them to get a much deeper understanding. Furthermore I am reaching out to the ~30 other students who will be attending RISS this summer. We are all connected via a Slack chat-room, with regular updates on preparation guidelines, and help with settling in.

The coordinators for RISS are doing a fantastic job of guiding us through the process. There is however, still a lot of unfinished business in terms of my obligations that I must personally sort out before I can head out to Pittsburgh for June 1st. This includes making roadmaps for my current AALAB projects such as ARC_ROS and Robot Magic, collaborating with the team I work with in the PMUSER research journal, and keeping on top of my presidential duties in the Computer Science Students Association.

I'll be spending a few hours each day doing literature review, doing my best to solidify a foundation of the material. Perhaps as a way to collect my thoughts, I'll do a brief summary of my initial readings before heading out this summer and post it here on the blog.

There is an incredible amount of things going on right now. Taking them on one at at time. I'm beyond excited to have received this opportunity, and see this as another huge stepping stone in my academic career.

It's going to be a fun summer!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kyle, currently i am also preparing to apply for RISS program, my question is, is it allowed to contact the professor you wished to work with before applying and if yes can i drop an email to professor that fit my interests, telling him/her about my interest to work with him/her?


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