Research Opportunities for Undergraduate Students

The Bio-sensing and Instrumentation Laboratory provides exciting research opportunities in robotics for undergraduate students in the following five areas:

Inspection, sorting, processing, and handling robot

  • Current postharvest handling and sorting of fresh produce is labor-intensive and costly. Human visual inspections are subject to error and unable to inspect internal and latent defects/pathogens. We propose to develop automatic sorting/handling robots with multi-modal sensing capabilities (hyperspectral, X-ray, and 3D imaging) to perform online quality and safety inspection of fresh produce, which will reduce the high labor costs and provide premium quality and safe food to consumers. Our team has a successful track record in this area, winning a USDA NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) project ($774,581, 2009-2013).

Weeding robot

  • Organic crop production precludes the use of most man-made chemicals in crop production. This has resulted in much higher labor requirements in weed control, particularly in the southeast due to the year-round mild, wet climate. We plan to pursue the development of infield robots for inter-row and intra-row weed control, including in-situ plant discrimination and localization, and precise mobile robot and actuator motion control for automated weed removal. We will also develop sophisticated sensing systems and pattern recognition algorithms that meet real time operational constraints using graphics processing units (GPU) and field programmable gate arrays (FPGA).

Plant phenotyping robot

  • Plant phenotyping has been a bottleneck hampering the progress in genomics research, and the plant research community has the urgent need to accurately measure increasingly large number of plants and plant parameters. We propose to develop high-throughput phenotyping technology by using high-resolution imaging spectroscopy, 3-dimensional time-of-flight (TOF) cameras, and advanced software that we will build for image analysis and feature extraction. Cloud computing and parallel computing will be investigated, potentially achieving synergy with the Big Data Initiative.

Harvesting robot

  • High labor costs and low efficiency in hand harvesting have been the bottleneck of many fresh produce industries, resulting in high prices to consumers. To address this issue, we propose to develop harvesting robots (robotic arms, sensors, and mobile platforms) to advance the mechanical and robotic harvesting of fresh produce in Georgia. Our team has a successful track record in this area by being part of another USDA SCRI project ($1.7 million, 2008-2013).

Scouting robot for pests, diseases, and pathogens

  • Protecting crops from pests and diseases is essential to maintain high quality and yield of crops. We propose to develop optical and chemical sensing systems, as well as mobile platforms and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that will identify pests/diseases and monitor their development level and locations in both in the field and in storage facilities. Our scouting robots will effectively detect pathogens and significantly reduce pesticide and chemical applications, protecting not only our human health, but also crops and the environment.