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The control research community understands that control and system theory are vital to the world at large and to the soon to be ubiquitous technologies of automated devices, vehicles, instruments, appliances, and our future robotic helpers. Sadly, this importance is hidden from the general public. While the public is becoming aware of the buzz and hype about Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), understanding of how intelligent machines interact with the environment, each other, and humans is lacking. At the core of this is a need for the public to understand the concepts of feedback and system theory. Our community has a lot of catching up to do so that the engineers and scientists who will be building devices that depend on feedback, those folks who are and will be “practicing control without a license” learn enough to do so safely. This outreach event is designed to introduce the principles and structure of feedback and control to a new generation of middle and high school age students and their teachers. Our focus will be on the students, not the controls researchers, but teachers and parents are welcome in the session. The workshop itself will consist of a combination of live and recorded presentations from controls researchers from around the world who have shown an enthusiasm for system theory to students that have not yet had calculus. There will be introductory material provided online in advance so that students come into the workshop with a basic idea of what they will learn and why it is important. Following this, there will be a series of talks on different aspects and applications of control systems.


Sponsor: AACC Technical Committee on Control Education, in Cooperation with the IFAC and IEEE CSS TCs on Control Education

Organizer: Daniel Abramovitch and Bozenna Pasik-Duncan 

Presentations include:

Speaker: Dr. Daniel Abramovitch, Agilent Technologies

Title: What Is a Control System and Why Should I Care? 

After years of teaching coaching little league trying to explain control systems to biologist and computer scientist friends, I will try the ultimate test of explaining the topic to a group of bright and easily bored high school kids. We will go through examples of feedback in everyday life, and then tease out what is common to all these examples. We will talk about how the "control" is computed, even when we don't have a computer. And we will talk about the dreaded math of control systems, and explain why we use it and what it tells us. The talk will finish with some general lessons about science and engineering, and why anyone might want to learn these intense subjects. 

Speaker: Dr. Babatunde Ogunnaike, University of Delaware

Title: Feedback in the Squishy Stuff    

Feedback doesn’t just happen in robots and self-driving cars, but in the regulation of our very bodies and in the ways in which we transform raw ingredients into materials we can use, be they for Silicon chips, disease fighting monoclonal antibodies and vaccines, or even dinner.  All of these processes – from regulating our blood sugar to making a stew – involve similar principles of feedback.  The processes, although complicated in the details, can often be understood using some fairly simple and yet powerful models.  We will talk about some of these. 

Speaker: Dr. Lucy Pao, University of Colorado at Boulder

Title: Efficient Wind Energy Systems—How Control Methods Can Enable a Clean Energy Future 

Wind energy is recognized worldwide as cost-effective and environmentally friendly and is among the fastest-growing sources of electrical energy. We will provide an overview of wind energy systems, discuss some of the challenges in the design and operation of wind turbines and wind farms, and highlight how control methods have improved the performance of these systems. We shall close by discussing continuing challenges and on-going and future research that can further facilitate the growth of wind energy. 

Speaker: Dr. Richard M. Murray, California Institute of Technology

Title: How to Design a Self-Driving Car 

Building robots that can do things as well as humans has been the goal of scientists and engineers for decades. Despite what we see in the movies and on TV, getting a real robot to perform as well as a human can is still a challenge goal. Approximately 15 years ago, the US has sponsored a competition to spur advances in robotics, called the DARPA Grand Challenge. This competition paved the way for the advances that we see today in the development of autonomous cars. In this talk I will explain how these cars work and some of the engineering challenges that remain. 

Speaker: Dr. Nicole Xu, US Naval Research Lab

Title: Bioinspired Robotic Squids  

Abstract:  TBD

Speaker: Dr. Hamidou Tembine, Learning & Game Theory Laboratory, NYU

Title: Coopetitive Learning 

We have much to learn from Nature, Ecology, Biology and the Living Systems around us. By experience-by-experience, one can gather data, process and learn from it. Strategic swarm learning aims to experiment, measure and learn from these interacting coopetitive systems. We will revisit how these coopetitive systems use feedback strategies with minimal communication to learn and improve by experience as anthills are created as a by-product of worker ants.  

Speaker: Dr. Dominique Duncan, University of Southern California

Title: A System and Feedback View of Reopening After Covid-19  

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has warranted a myriad of business closures across the United States and around the world in efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. To measure the objective effects of reopening businesses in the midst of this pandemic, it is imperative to study how these reopenings affect the overall infection rates in their respective counties. We have used data from the COVID-19 Data Archive (COVID-ARC) to gain a data-driven understanding of the implications of reopening businesses and schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on county-level infection rates. The importance of data harmonization, to compare data acquired across various sites, prior to analysis will be discussed. The role of feedback control and optimization applied to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 related to various business closures and reopenings will be presented.


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