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EE Student, Igor Labutov, wins prestigious NSF Fellowship


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EE Student, Igor Labutov, wins prestigious NSF Fellowship

Start: 04/22/10
End: 04/23/12

Igor Labutov, a 2010 Grove School  graduate in computer engineering, is an innovative thinker whose tireless  pursuit of his research goals has taken him to the intersection of robotics and  neuroscience.En route, he has developed  an empirical understanding of the challenges inherent in today’s increasingly  multidisciplinary research.
Igor’s work ranges from a man-machine interface for a  robotic hand to a vision sensor and software for an autonomous aerial vehicle.Next, he plans to develop a wearable camera  system for the blind.The quality and  vision of his research have earned him an NSF Graduate  Research Fellowship, putting him in the company of numerous Nobel Prize winners, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, and Google founder, Sergey Brin.According  to the NSF, “Fellows are anticipated to become knowledge experts who can  contribute significantly to research, teaching, and innovations in science and  engineering.  These individuals are crucial  to maintaining and advancing the nation's technological infrastructure and  national security as well as contributing to the economic well-being of society  at large.”Igor will receive a three-year  annual stipend of $30,000 along with a $10,500 cost of education allowance and  a one-time $1,000 international travel allowance.
At CCNY, Igor has been supported by a group of mentors who  reflect his multidisciplinary interests.   They are Dr. Jizhong Xiao, director of the CCNY Robotics and Intelligent  Systems Lab, Dr. Norman Scheinberg an expert on electronics in the Grove School’s  electrical engineering department, and Dr. Theodore Raphan, a neuroscientist and  electrical engineer at the Institute  of Neural and Intelligent Systems at Brooklyn College.
Igor calls the Grove  School’s Robotics Club  his “first harbor.”That is where he  developed a wearable sensor glove for remotely operating a robotic hand.This entailed perfecting an inexpensive  finger bend sensor, which used a unique combination of hardware and software  filters to optimize its performance, surpassing commercial sensors in  stability, effective range of motion and frequency response.
Igor’s next goal was to integrate real biological models  into the design of robotic systems, specifically to model the human vestibular  and visual systems in a small bipedal robot.   “My research,” he says, “became a constant struggle in merging the two,  very different fields – biology and robotics.”   Igor found inspiration across the Atlantic  in the work of the Swiss scientist, Dr. Auke Ijspeert, who was successfully  establishing a bridge between biological and classical models in bio-inspired  robots.This example allowed Igor to  apply Dr. Raphan’s models  in a humanoid robot, leading to three successful conference papers and the  opportunity to spend the summer of 2010 working with Dr. Ijspeert in Switzerland  on bio-inspired locomotion models.
Concurrently, under two Research Experience for  Undergraduates grants, Igor has been conducting mobile robotics research at the  Grove School, with the goal of developing a  vision system for navigation and mapping in a ground vehicle.The SLAM algorithms he developed were adapted  by the City College team he led in the 2009  International Ground Vehicle Competition.   Igor expanded the team to include students from several departments,  mirroring the multidisciplinary nature of robotics.Becoming a mentor himself, he integrated  principles of Peer Led Team Learning into the way the group worked.The result was a 4th place finish,  up from 22nd the previous year.
Under his second REU, Igor worked on a novel stereo  omni-directional vision sensor for navigation and mapping, and developed a  unique ray-tracer tool for simulating vision and laser sensors for robotics.This tool is being used in the City College  Robotics Lab and has been made publicly available.The project yielded a mini-paper and poster  which have earned Igor first prize at the 2010 Junior Scientist Conference at  Vienna University of Technology.
As an NSF graduate fellow, Igor looks forward to doing  research which will expand the frontiers of knowledge and benefit society and  to mentoring undergraduates as he did at City.   For his doctoral studies, he is bound for the Sibley School of  Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell.

Grove School of Engineering
Dr. Gilda Barabino, Dean

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