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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship

Sam Burden, Electrical Engineering - 2007-08 RFAU

Sam Burden. 2007 RFAU recipient.When I started high school, I had no plans to attend college after graduation. I found high school rather droll, and reasoned that college wouldn't be much better. It wasn't until I participated in a math camp at UW during the summer after my junior year of high school that my perspective changed. At the camp, I was part of a vibrant intellectual community, surrounded by passionate people working collaboratively to master difficult material. When I came to UW, I wanted to immerse myself in a similarly challenging community, and thought participating in research might fulfill that desire. Through the NASA Space Grant program, I started working for Professor Eric Klavins in Electrical Engineering during the summer before my freshman year. I found the lab environment exciting and intellectually stimulating, so I stuck around; I'll finish my fourth year with the group this Spring. I've enjoyed participating in research so much that I want to extend the experience as long as possible. Consequently, I'll be continuing my education next year in a Ph.D. program studying legged robots.

Mentor: Professor Eric Klavins, Electrical Engineering

Project Title: Immunology for Self-Organizing Robots

Abstract: Self-organization drives assembly in nature. Crystallization, protein synthesis, and cell specialization all occur in a distributed manner between a large number of relatively simple components. Understanding how to engineer such processes should enable us to construct computational devices and novel materials at small scales. Current efforts to design self-assembled structures do not scale well. As assembly size increases, errors introduced by thermodynamic noise compromise the integrity of the structures. Therefore to develop scalable methods for engineering self-organizing systems, we must either design fault-tolerant assembly schemes or develop methods to perform error identification and recovery on self-assembled structures. Drawing on inspiration from immunological systems observed in nature, we aim to develop methods to perform error identification and recovery in assemblies formed by a collection of self-organizing robots. By studying self-assembly at the macro-scale, we intend to uncover design principles that can be applied to self-organization at all scales.