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Graduate Student News
Jeffrey Ouellette Named NASA Earth and Space Fellow
By Candice Clevenger
Jeffrey Ouellette, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering, has been awarded a $30,000 NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF) for the 2011/2012 academic year.
The fellowship was awarded based on a review of Ouellette’s research project, Empirical Studies of Soil Moisture Estimation Using L-Band Radar Systems. The focus of this proposed project is to support NASA's Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP) mission currently scheduled for launch in 2014. The mission will provide global, high-resolution soil moisture and freeze-thaw data, available for public use, through use of a combined L-band radar-radiometer system. Ouellette’s goal is to provide an empirical analysis of the radar algorithms currently in place and foster the refinement of these algorithms to provide more accurate soil moisture predictions. Aforementioned data sets include those available from Japan's PALSAR satellite, which is already in orbit, as well as NASA's own UAVSAR, a frequently-used airplane-mounted instrumentation.
Jeffrey Ouellette is a graduate research associate at the Ohio State ElectroScience Laboratory who conducts research in microwave remote sensing, propagation and electromagnetic wave theory. His advisor is Joel Johnson, professor of electrical and computer engineering. Ouellette received his bachelor’s degree from Western New England College where he also received the William G. Bradley award. He is a member of IEEE and the Tau Beta Pi engineering honors society.
The NESSF program helps ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines needed to achieve NASA’s scientific goals. A total of 331 NESSF applications were received for 2011/2012; out of which NASA offered 57 awards.
Navigation System Provides Direction -- Even Without GPS
Engineering faculty and students, with $1.2 million in support from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, in partnership with NASA, are developing a personal navigation system for use by both astronauts and emergency workers.
The research team has created a prototype of a Lunar Astronaut Spatial Orientation and Information System (LASOIS) that will help astronauts overcome disorientation they can experience due to microgravity and other factors.
“Although LASOIS was initiated for manned missions to the moon, now that NASA’s focus has shifted, this technology could be used in future missions to asteroids or Mars,” says Alper Yilmaz, assistant professor, who is conducting the work with Rongxing (Ron) Li, professor, and doctoral students and researchers, all in civil and environmental engineering and geodetic science.
The researchers, who are collaborating with MIT and UC-Berkeley, use imaging, mapping and sensor technology as well as psychological and cognitive research on spatial orientation and navigation for their system. The technology consists of multiple integrated sensors including an Inertial Measurement Unit mounted on a boot, stereo video cameras mounted on a chest bar and a step pressure sensor mounted in a boot sole. The researcher wearing the navigation equipment can monitor the information he receives from the sensors via a device mounted on his forearm using an OLED, or organic light emitting diode, display unit developed by Honeywell Inc.
This year, the team tested the prototype at Easton Town Center, a Columbus-area shopping mall.
“We want to show how the system can also be used on Earth as a successful replacement for GPS, particularly for emergency workers in disaster situations such as fires, earthquakes and mine disasters when GPS signal is not available,” Yilmaz says.
In March 2011, the team plans to conduct field experiemnts in Hawaii on volcanic terrain, which has conditions that would be similar to the surface of another planet in space.
Research on personal navigation in the college’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Geodetic Science dates back to early 2005 and includes pioneering and award-winning discoveries by Professor Dorota A. Grejner-Brzezinska and Charles Toth, a senior research scientist in the Center for Mapping.
Grejner-Brzezinska and Toth, in work sponsored by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, use a combination of global positioning systems with inertial navigation systems, barometers and digital compasses, called magnetometers, as well as image-based navigation for indoor environments. The main novelty, however, is the use of artificial intelligence techniques to design and implement a Knowledge Based System, a term they use to describe their technology that models human dynamics (step length and step direction), training the system to learn how the user moves in real time, to predict and support navigation when other sensors fail.
Their personal navigation system is being further developed as a military hand-held device by a small California business that specializes in military solutions for land-based and underwater navigation. The company’s work is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense. Grejner-Brzezinska and Toth continue to provide their expertise to the company.