Jeremy Bos, Darrell Robinette Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Dean Janet Callahan has chosen Jeremy Bos (ICC-DataS), assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Darrell Robinette, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, for this week’s Deans’ Teaching Showcase.

As a team, Bos and Robinette will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members, and are also candidates for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

They were chosen for their success in the SAE AutoDrive Challenge, which saw students turn a 2017 Chevy Bolt into Prometheus Borealis, a Level 4 autonomous vehicle. The four-year challenge wrapped up June 14 with Michigan Tech’s team earning third place overall and bringing home the second-highest trophy count. “The competition focuses on the electrical engineering, computer engineering, robotics engineering and computer science skills needed to implement the sensors, signal processing and artificial intelligence needed to make the car drive itself,” says Bos.

Students outfitted the vehicle with sensors, control systems and computer processors so it could navigate an urban driving course in automated driving mode. Much of the work was done by undergraduate students in the Robotic Systems Enterprise, which Bos advises. It was the Enterprise’s primary focus over the past four years.

Bos and Robinette guided the students as they integrated sensors and computational systems into the car. Safety is paramount and, as one student says, it is built on smart redundancy. “We never rely on one sensor for one particular job; we have a collection of sensors that all contribute,” he says. “So even if there is one point of failure, then the system can signal the driver to take over or, if it’s small enough, then the system can adjust itself.”

Participating in that development is a unique part of the AutoDrive Challenge. Bos says the competition is more like real industry work than a traditional class project. “What the AutoDrive Challenge provides students is a chance to learn about what’s happening in the automotive industry right now. They’re seeing those changes and reacting to those changes in real time in the competition; these are not ideas taught in class because the curriculum hasn’t had time to catch up.”

Bos and Robinette have not only used the AutoDrive Challenge to educate students in the art and practice of engineering, but also as a vehicle for outreach to the broader community. They have brought Prometheus Borealis to Summer Youth Programs, Alumni Reunion, and the First-Year Engineering Lecture.

As Callahan summarizes, “Michigan Tech’s SAE AutoDrive Challenge team has proven our students innovate to succeed. We are proud of what Jeremey Bos and Darrell Robinette have done, and what the students they mentored were able to accomplish.”